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JASDF Squadron Histories & Markings Part 1

201sqn F-15J 60th anniversaryIn 2014, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces commemorated the 60th anniversary of their foundation.
As tradition dictates, JASDF front-line units adorned one of their aircraft with a specially
 designed colour scheme. This 201st TFS F-15J sported a suitably ornate redesign of
the unit’s bear’s head tail marking.
(Photo source: JASDF Chitose AB)

Like air arms the world over, the JASDF boasts units that can trace their histories back over decades; some of the service’s F-4EJ Phantom squadrons have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the start of their operations.

Each front-line fighter and jet trainer unit comes under the command of an Air Wing. Reflecting the start of a major reshuffle of combat aircraft units, the augmentation and re-formation of the single-squadron 83rd Air Wing as the 9th Air Wing on January 31, 2016, marked the first establishment of a two-squadron air wing in more than 50 years.

302 Sqn Phantom Dating back to 1974 and the start of its Phantom operations, the 302nd TFS traded in
its F-4EJ
Kai at Hyakuri for F-35As at Misawa early in 2019. (Photo: JASDF)

Air Wing Formation Dates/Current Base Locations


(Training) Oct. 1, 1956
(originally formed as unnumbered
Air Wing Dec. 1, 1955, at Hamamatsu)

2nd Oct. 1, 1956 (Hamamatsu) Chitose
3rd Dec. 1, 1957 (Matsushima) Misawa

(Training) Feb. 16, 1958

5th Dec. 1, 1959 (Matsushima) Nyutabaru
6th July 15, 1961 (Komatsu) Komatsu
7th July 15, 1961 (Matsushima) Hyakuri

Dec. 28, 1964
(Dates back to Provisional Ashiya
Detachment, formed Aug. 1, 1954)

9th Jan. 31, 2016 Naha

Oct. 16, 1973 (Naha)
(Provisionally formed Oct. 11, 1972)

(Re-formed as
9th AW)

Commencing with the principal fighter units, both past and present, this section will be built up to provide extensive illustrated JASDF unit histories and markings coverage. Covering a total of 30 squadrons (Nos. 1–10, 101–105, 201–207, 301–306 and 501 as well as the Provisional F-35A Squadron), examples of the initial format are provided below.

Interspersed among the histories are photos of aircraft in special markings, such as those showing the process for painting an F-15J to mark the 40th anniversary of the 304th Sqn (link) in 2017.  

A search through Japanese-language sources has revealed a fair amount of conflicting information on the base changes and dates that largely form this initial content. More details will be added as they are found.

203rd Sqn F-104JsA trio of 203rd Sqn F-104J Starfighters photographed over typically rugged Hokkaido terrain during
a flight from their base at Chitose. The 203rd completed its conversion onto the
F-15J Eagle in March 1984. 
(Photo: JASDF Chitose AB)

306Sqn F-4EJ 1986A 306th Sqn F-4EJ Phantom takes off from its Komatsu home base in April 1986, during the
joint U.S.-Japan Exercise Cope North ’86-3.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. James Ferguson via Wikimedia Commons)

6 Sqn Tsuiki 1978An impressive lineup of some of the 20 or so F-86Fs operated by the 6th Sqn from Tsuiki in
August 1978.
(Photo: Chikara Matsuno)

Fast forward 35 years to October 2013 and a lineup of specially marked F-2s from the
(front) and 3rd TFSs that took part in that year’s TAC Meet. (Photo: JASDF)

Hyakuri review 2014JASDF front-line aircraft gather at Hyakuri AB for the SDF review, October 2014.
(Photo: Andy Binks)

1st Sqn Formed  Jan. 10, 1956 (Air Wing, Hamamatsu, F-86F)*
Disbanded  Mar. 31, 1979 (1st Air Wing, Hamamatsu, F-86F)

As its designation suggests the first JASDF F-86F unit, the 1st Sqn originally worked up on the type under the command of the simply designated (unnumbered) Air Wing that had been formed at Hamamatsu AB on December 1, 1955. Following the formation of the 2nd Sqn in August 1956, the Air Wing was redesignated the 1st Air Wing on October 1 that year and assumed responsibility for conducting jet fighter pilot training courses.

F-86F 1st Sqn JASDFA fine study of a 1st Sqn F-86F on the Hamamatsu flight line in December 1975. The aircraft sports
a broad high-visibility band on its fuselage and a red maintenance team identification
stripe wrapped around the front of its tailfin.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

1st Sqn Markings
Black and yellow-chequered horizontal stripe on the tail. (The design was also sometimes seen in the shape of a solid “4” on aircraft on detachment with the 4th Air Wing at Matsushima.)

In the 1950s, a large, black-outlined shield was carried in the fuselage aft of the cockpit. The shield contained a white number “1” and blue and red chevrons on a blue background and, above them, the unit’s motto 不撓不屈 (futo-fukutsu, meaning unyielding or indefatigable) in red on a white background. Aft of this badge were the U.S. Air Force-style diagonal black-yellow-black-yellow identification stripes that had previously been worn on 1st Air Wing aircraft. In the 1960s, only the tail stripe was carried.

In the 70s, a stripe the thickness of the upper rudder hinge was wrapped around the front of the fin, above the chequered stripe. The stripe’s colour variations denoted a specific 1st Air Wing maintenance team.

* Some sources give Tsuiki, not moving to Hamamatsu until August 24, 1956, the day before the 2nd Sqn formed. 

2nd Sqn Formed  Aug. 25, 1956 (Air Wing, Hamamatsu, F-86F)
Disbanded  Nov. 20, 1965 (1st Air Wing, Hamamatsu, F-86F)

Formed under the Air Wing seven months after the 1st Sqn, the 2nd Sqn also fulfilled a training role (under the 1st Air Wing from October 1, 1956) by conducting the basic fighter course and was to remain at Hamamatsu for its entire existence. Disbanded after only nine years of operations, this unit’s training duties were ultimately combined with those already undertaken by the 1st Sqn.

(See 11th Sqn for the 1st Air Wing/2nd Sqn’s involvement with what was to become the Blue Impulse aerobatic display team.)

2nd Sqn Markings
Initially, the 1st Sqn’s black and yellow-chequered horizontal stripe on the tail on which was superimposed a large, black-outlined white shield (a variation on the 1st Sqn design). The shield contained a black number “2,” blue and red chevrons and, above them, the unit’s motto 不撓不屈 (futo-fukutsu, meaning unyielding or indefatigable). As mentioned in the 1st Sqn account above, in the 1970s, a coloured tail stripe served to indicate a specific 1st Air Wing maintenance team.

From the late 1950s, a somewhat less elaborate tail marking was adopted, consisting of just the small blue and red chevrons. 

In the JASDF, 2nd Sqn F-86Fs were unique in having a black or possibly dark green anti-glare panel painted forward of the cockpit canopy. Its apex behind the cockpit, a blue and red chevron was painted on the fuselage of some aircraft.

3rd TFS Formed  (As 3rd Sqn) Oct. 1, 1956
                      (2nd Air Wing, Hamamatsu, F-86F)
Current Base  Hyakuri (7th Air Wing, F-2A/B, T-4)

The 3rd was formed as the first actual fighter (as opposed to training) unit on the same day as the 2nd Air Wing at Hamamatsu. A progressive relocation to Chitose was completed on September 2, 1957, The 3rd received orders to assume responsibility for the interception of incursions into Japanese airspace on February 17, 1958, the 4th Air Wing’s units sharing quick reaction alert (QRA) duties. The first scramble was conducted on May 13 that year.

The 3rd Sqn’s somewhat nomadic existence continued with a move to Matsushima (4th Air Wing) on March 5, 1963, to make way for the start of F-104J Starfighter operations from Chitose. This was followed by the completion of a temporary move to Matsushima on March 5, 1963. On February 1, 1964, passed on to the 81st Air Group, which subsequently relocated to Hachinohe, the 3rd ended up at its current home of Misawa in December 1, 1971.

F-86F 3rd Sqn JASDFA lineup of 3rd Sqn F-86Fs at Misawa in October 1976; all sport the unit’s distinctive black-edged,
red intake lips. Assigned to the commanding officer, the nearest aircraft features the shark
mouth drop tanks first introduced in the previous year. Note that the tanks also carry the
words 3rd Squadron and a blue and white arrow. This aircraft was withdrawn from
JASDF use in June 1979 and returned to the United States, where in April 1986
it became one of around 50 ex-JASDF Sabres converted to QF-86F
target drone standard for the U.S. Navy.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Today the longest-serving JASDF squadron, the now 3rd TFS began re-equipping on the F-1 on September 26, 1977, remained at Misawa when transferred to the 3rd Air Wing on March 1, 1978. A dual ceremony to mark the official end of its long association with the F-86F and the unit becoming fully operational on the F-1 was held on March 31, 1978.

3rd Sqn F-1 formationA nine-aircraft formation of 3rd Sqn F-1s overflies the unit’s Misawa home base in
September 1981.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB via Twitter @jasdf_misawa)

(Above and below) Two T-33As in the service of the 3rd Sqn at Misawa; both were among those
sent to the United States at the end of the JASDF careers.

(Photos: JASDF Misawa AB via Twitter @jasdf_misawa)

The 3rd TFS received its first F-2 on September 26, 2000, 23 years to the day after its first F-1, and completed its type conversion on March 27, 2001. To make way for the arrival of what was to be the newly F-35A Lightning II-equipped 301st Sqn, plans were made as long ago as 2017 for the 3rd TFS to relocate south to Hyakuri AB by the end of March 2020.

A send-off ceremony was held in a hangar at Misawa on March 19, 2020, the week before the
3rd TFS made the move to Hyakuri.
(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB)

Bringing to an end its nearly 50-year association with Misawa, the 3rd’s aircraft arrived at Hyakuri on March 25, 2020. 

The new arrivals at their new home (Photo [Hyakuri, Mar. 25, 2020]: ‘fuu’ via Twitter @jboy1229)

Another photo call was held on March 26, 2020, on this occasion with two aircraft and some Ibaraki
countryside serving as a backdrop. Tradition dictated that a ceremony be held to officially mark the
transfer of the 3rd TFS from the 3rd Air Wing and its reformation under the 7th Air Wing’s
command. After speeches and the 3rd TFS CO’s official receipt of the squadron’s
new flag from the 7th Air Wing commander, it was time for the assembled
personnel to assume formal poses.
(Photos: JASDF Hyakuri AB) 

Two Indian Air Force Su-30MKIs live up to the type’s Flanker codename on either side
of a 3rd TFS F-2A at the time of their visit for Exercise
Veer Guardian 2023;
see below and
Bulletin Board January 2023 story.
(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB via Twitter @jasdf_hyakuri)

3rd Sqn Markings
(F-86F) Upon forming, 3rd Sqn F-86Fs bore two thin horizontal stripes (yellow, edged in red) on their tailfins. For a time, the squadron emblem appeared centrally in between the stripes. During their time at Chitose, 3rd Sqn aircraft also wore a single, red-edged yellow zigzag stripe (actually an N, denoting the Northern Regional Air Command) on their fuselages and red intake lips to differentiate them from the 4th Sqn (q.v.). The unit’s aircraft had two broader tail stripes (red, edged in black) from the time of their arrival at Misawa.

In 1975, the 3rd Sqn became the first JASDF unit to adorn one of its aircraft with a shark mouth design, albeit on the drop tanks of then commanding officer Lt. Col. Asano’s mount. Towards the end of its F-86F era, the unit had also started to paint the air intake lips of its aircraft red with a black edging. Variations of these traditional markings were also sported by F-1s flown at inter-squadron tactical air combat (TAC) competition meets.

JASDF 3rd Sqn (F-1)The 3rd Sqn’s period of reequipment on the Mitsubishi F-1 lasted from September 1977 to
March 1978. The aircraft on display at the JASDF Air Park at Hamamatsu bears the
unit’s distinctive samurai helmet tail emblem.
(Photo: Arjun Sarup)

The 3rd TFS adopted its current samurai helmet unit marking in 1983. While very colourful in the F-1 days, the marking has been toned down and reduced in size on the unit’s F-2s.

A shadow of its former self, the 3rd TFS tail marking, 2021 style.
(Photo [posted Apr. 2021]: JASDF Hyakuri AB via Twitter @jasdf_hyakuri)

3rd TFS Special Marking (2013)

A 3rd TFS Mitsubishi F-2A is prepared for departure from Iruma in November 2013. This aircraft
sports the markings specially applied to the trio of 3rd Sqn aircraft that participated in the
2013 TAC Meet. Positioned below the wording
Samurai Spirits, the grey and white
tail marking combined a stylized
3, a contrail and the silhouette of an aircraft.
Note the small samurai helmet squadron marking to the left of the wording
 beneath the serial in the close-up photo below. The aircraft’s port-side
ventral fin carried the names of the paint shop staff. 

3rd Sqn F-2A special

f-2iruma2On the starboard side, all the tail lettering appeared in mirror image, and the ventral fin bore the
names of 3rd Air Wing technical specialists.

Note: For details of the special markings applied to an F-2A to mark the 3rd TFS’s move to Hyakuri, see the Bulletin Board entry for Sept. 8, 2019.

Exercise Veer Guardian, January 2023  F-2A 63-8537 / F-2B 23-8111

Applied in sticker form to one of the four 3rd TFS F-2As that participated in the first exercise in
Japan to involve Indian Air Force fighters, the design featured a tiger image flanked (a reference
to Su-30
Flanker?) by a warrior’s head and death’s head in the form of tiger stripes (or possibly
claw marks) on the vertical tail. The words VEER GUARDIAN were in the colours of the
Japanese flag on the right side and Indian flag on the left.
(See Bulletin Board January 2023 story)

(Photos: JASDF Hyakuri AB via Twitter @jasdf_hyakuri)

4th Sqn Formed  Feb. 1, 1957 (2nd Air Wing, Hamamatsu, F-86F)
Disbanded  June 30, 1975 (6th Air Wing, Komatsu, F-86F)

Formed under the 2nd Air Wing, the 4th Sqn was on the move six months later, relocating to join the 3rd Sqn at Chitose between August 24 and September 2, 1957.

The Provisional Komatsu Detachment formed on February 1, 1961, and the 4th’s transfer to what was to prove to be its last base seems to have taken place between May 7 and May 16. The 4th officially came under the command of the 6th Air Wing, which took over from the provisional unit there on July 15, 1961. A fighter/interceptor unit throughout its existence, the 4th was temporarily based at Tsuiki between February 17 and October 29, 1973, as seen in the photo below.

Despite its deep involvement in flying the first jet fighter of a nascent air arm, at a time when fatal accidents were not uncommon, the 4th Sqn achieved the rare feat of 18 years of operations without a major accident. After disbanding, the unit went on to form the nucleus of the 303rd Sqn on the then newly arrived F-4EJ Phantoms.

The four aircraft and part of the serried ranks of personnel who assembled at Komatsu on
June 7, 1975, for a ceremony that was held ahead of the final disbandment of the
4th Sqn. The Sabres made way for the Phantoms of the 303rd TFS, the first
of which did not arrive until October the following year.

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

4th Sqn Markings
When based with the 3rd Sqn at Chitose, 4th Sqn F-86Fs likewise bore the two thin horizontal stripes (yellow, edged in red) on their tailfins and a red-edged yellow zigzag stripe (an N for Northern Regional Air Command) on their fuselages; their intake lips were painted yellow. At Komatsu, superimposed yellow and blue tail chevrons in the form of stylized sixes, for 6th Air Wing, were adopted.

(Photo [Tsuiki, August 1973]: Takao Kadokami)

5th Sqn Formed  Feb. 1, 1957 (1st Air Wing, Hamamatsu, F-86F)
Disbanded  July 1, 1971 (4th Air Wing, Matsushima, F-86F)

Formed as a training unit on the same day and at the same location as the 4th Sqn, the 1st Air Wing-assigned 5th also soon received partial base transfer orders. The unit initially provided a detachment to Matsushima from August 1957 but took on the full fighter training squadron role following its incorporation into the 4th Air Wing (formed February 16, 1978) when fully relocated there on November 1, 1958.

The 4th Air Wing’s role changed from training to a front-line fighter unit on July 1, 1960, and the 5th assumed readiness operations from March 1, 1962.

Former 5th Sqn aircraft enjoyed a new lease of life under the 1st Air Wing as the Matsushima Hakentai (Detachment) conversion unit, which was active from July 1, 1971, to August 23, 1973.

5th Sqn Markings
Initially, 5th Sqn aircraft sported a small, solid stylized “4” (denoting the 4th Air Wing) in red on the leading edge of the tail fin with four stripes (red, edged in white) extending across the width of the tailfin. A small black three-leaf clover appeared at a rakish angle above the stripes on the rudder, and a red solid “4” formed the tip of a fuselage stripe “arrow” that extended back from the nose.

Following the formation of the 7th Sqn at Matsushima in February 1960, a common marking was adopted by enlarging the solid stylized “4” in red for the 5th and in light blue for the 7th Sqn.

F-86F Matsushima Det.5th Sqn aircraft assigned to the Matsushima Detachment, which was active in the early 70s,
carried a black Pegasus on a red-outlined yellow disc (the 5th Sqn’s unit badge) on
their drop tanks.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

6th TFS Formed  (As 6th Sqn) Aug. 1, 1959 (2nd Air Wing, Chitose, F-86F)
Current Base  Tsuiki (8th Air Wing, F-2A/B, T-4)

In a move that must have posed some logistical problems, the 6th Sqn transferred from the 2nd Air Wing in Hokkaido to undertake training from Nyutabaru in Kyushu, at the opposite end of the country. The move was completed by November 1, 1959, a mere three months after the 6th Sqn’s formation.

On April 1, 1960, the unit officially came under the command of the 5th Air Wing, which had worked up after forming at Matsushima on December 1 the previous year prior. The 5th Air Wing officially joined the 6th Sqn at Nyutabaru on July 4, 1960. The 3rd then returned to Matsushima from Nyutabaru on October 1, 1960, only to head back to Nyutabaru, still attached to the 5th Air Wing, on July 15, 1961.

Nyutabaru became the home base of newly forming F-104J Starfighter units from 1962. So it was that, 50 years ago, on October 26, 1964, the 6th Sqn was initially relocated to the provisional detachment at Tsuiki in northern Kyushu, where it joined the 10th Sqn, also from the 5th Air Wing, and has remained ever since. The Provisional Tsuiki Detachment became the 8th Air Wing on December 28, 1964.

F-86F 6Sqn JASDFStanding out against a hangar at Tsuiki, this 6th Sqn F-86F was photographed in August 1976.
The open access panel reveals the ammunition magazine, from which each of the three 12.7mm
Browning M3 machine guns on this side were fed with 300 rounds. In the foreground,
六飛 (rokuhi, short for 6th Sqn) has been painted in red on a yellow bucket
used for collecting foreign objects found on the apron.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Having commenced re-equipment on March 11, 1980, the 6th completed its transition from the F-86F to become the third F-1 unit on February 28, 1981; the last two F-86Fs had already left the previous November. (Although the accompanying music will not be to everybody’s taste, a short video of a 6th Sqn F-1 training mission can be viewed via YouTube [link].

The 6th began the process of re-equipping with the F-2A/B on March 8, 2004, and ceased operations on the T-2 and F-1 on March 2 and 9, 2006, respectively. Having officially operated the F-2A/B from Tsuiki since March 18, 2006, the unit has been involved in the interception of flight incursions into Japanese airspace since March 1, 2007.

6th Sqn F-86F on display at Tsuiki, November 1972 (Photo: Takao Kadokami)

JASDF 6 Sqn F-86FThe 6th Sqn was the last front-line unit to end its F-86F operations, in November 1980.
(Photo: JASDF)

(Photo [Tsuiki, August 1984]: Takao Kadokami)

Nyutabaru T-2 1986At a wet Nyutabaru on Sept. 11, 1986, a 6th TFS T-2’s canopies receive some attention in between
dissimilar air combat training (DACT) missions during Exercise Cope North 86-4.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/James R. Ferguson via Wikimedia Commons)

A 6th TFS T-33A being taxied along the landmark concrete seawall at Tsuiki.
(Photo [Jan.1989]: Takao Kadokami)  

f-1 formationA fine shot of a formation of 6th TFS Mitsubishi F-1s airborne from Tsuiki circa 1999. 
(Photo: JASDF Tsuiki PR Group)

6th Sqn JASDF GuamThe 6th TFS’s F-2s lined up on the ramp at Andersen AB, Guam, during the Cope North exercise in
January 2009. This joint U.S.-Japan exercise was first held in 1978.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nichelle Griffiiths via Wikimedia Commons)   

Fast forward 11 years, and it was once again the 6th’s turn to participate in Cope North Guam. 
The squadron provided six aircraft for the 2020 edition of the exercise, which involved
training alongside U.S. and Australian units.

(Photo [Feb. 14, 2020]: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Curt Beach, Pacific Air Force Public Affairs)

6th Sqn Tail Markings
In the F-86F era, this unit first adopted a red stripe with a yellow “6”, before removing the “6” in favour of a stylized Roman numeral V for 5th Air Wing, which was carried from 1961 to 1964. From 1965 to 1980, the design comprised a red stripe with two yellow triangular shapes that appeared like an “8”, denoting the 8th Air Wing, tilted on its side (as that worn, with a blue stripe, by 10th Sqn aircraft). There were times when this marking was temporarily changed.

6 Sqn JASDF F-86F
Mounted on display at Tsuiki in September 2000 were two representative 6th Sqn aircraft: an F-86F
above) and an F-1 resplendent in a 40th anniversary scheme dating from 1999 (below).

6 Sqn JASDF F-1 anniv

6 Sqn JASDFA close-up of the current 6th Sqn tail marking on an F-2A at Iwakuni in 2012.
The 6th completed its reequipment on the F-2 in March 2006.

Dating back to October 1959 and a suggestion from its then commanding officer, Lt. Col. Yōkichi Ikegami, the 6th’s current tail marking is connected to events in Japanese mythology.

It is believed that the goddess Amaterasu ordered a god to descend to earth on a mountain (Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, part of the volcanic Kirishima range in what is today Miyazaki Prefecture) to establish the lineage of Japanese emperors. Its actual provenance having been the subject of much speculation over the years, the sacred three-pronged lance (known as the Amano Sakahoko) staked upside down atop the mountain is said to have been placed there by the heavenly descendant god.

Amano SakahokoThe inspiration for the 6th Sqn marking, the sacred three-pronged lance known as the
Amano Sakahoko on the summit of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, Miyazaki Prefecture.
(Photo [April 2009]: Yanajin via Wikimedia Commons).

The arrow is a reference to the Jimmu Tōsei, the eastern expedition carried out by the first emperor, Jimmu (711–585 BCE). Prior to embarking on the expedition, Jimmu is said to have performed a Shinto ritual that included the firing of an arrow towards the sun in a bid to end political instability.

The black design on a yellow disc appeared on F-86Fs and T-33As from 1959 to 1960, superimposed on a broad, yellow-edged red stripe that spanned the top of the tail; the stripe was repeated across the base of the tail to mimic the number two in Japanese (二) for 2nd Air Wing. It was not until August 1980 that the disc marking was officially established as that of the 6th Sqn.

(Photo [Tsuiki, June 1983]: Takao Kadokami)

6th TFS Special Markings (November 1992) 
Tsuiki AB 50th Anniversary

F-1s 70-8206 (link) / 80-8222 (link)

The ‘6’ of the nose serial was edged in white and a matching TFS added in subscript 206TFS
(Photos [Tsuiki, Nov. 8, 1992]: Takao Kadokami) 

(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 8, 1992]: Takao Kadokami)

Aside from their yellow tailfins, both aircraft carried identical, specially decorated centerline tanks (link). Listed in chronological order, but from right to left on the right-hand side and from left to right on the left-hand side, were silhouettes of the aircraft that have been based at Tsuiki. Each was accompanied by the year that operations were commenced and a flag:

Imperial Japan    ’42 Zero, Type 96 Land-based Attack Aircraft (Nell),
                            Type 96 Carrier-based Fighter (Claude),
                            Type 90 Training Aircraft (K3M3)

                            ’44 Type 93 Intermediate Training Aircraft (Willow), Ginga

United States      ’50 P-51 / ’51 P-80 / ’52 F-86

Japan                   ’55 T-33 F-86 / ’77 F-4 / ’81 F-1 / ’90 F-15 / ’91 T-4

(Photos [Tsuiki, Nov. 8, 1992]: Takao Kadokami)

For photos of the specially marked training aircraft present at Tsuiki’s 50th anniversary in 1992, see the JASDF Base Histories page.

6th TFS Special Marking (May 1997)

(Photo: T-fighter via Twitter @t_fighter)

Five 6th TFS aircraft received a special scheme for the support fighter category of the 1997 TAC Meet at Misawa. The yellow wing and tail markings were reportedly inspired by the IJAAF’s Hayate-equipped 85th Sentai, to which the father of then 6th TFS CO Lt. Col. Yoshio Ikeda had been assigned. The CO’s aircraft (the first F-1, 70-8201 [link]) had carried the 吉 (Yoshi) of his given name on its tail, so presumably the 義 (Tadashi?) on 90-8227 was all or part of that pilot’s name. Other aircraft carried 秀 (10-8256) , 円 (20-8260) and 丸 (or 月, spare aircraft 60-8275). The port-side nose marking was of a cartoon Grim Reaper (link). The wording of the slogan at the base of the rudder, also only carried on the port side, has thus far proven elusive.

6th TFS Special Markings (November 2004) 
JASDF 50th Anniversary

(Photo: 研奈 via Twitter @KennaRescue)

(Photo: aya長野県特別派遣隊 via Twitter @aya01flt)

(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 2004]: Takao Kadokami)

A close-up of 00-8235’s nose can be found here (link) nad of the port-side tail design (link).

6th TFS Special Marking (2014) 

Tsuiki AB traditionally holds its annual air show late in the year. One of the main attractions at the November 2014 event was an F-2B with its tail painted to commemorate not only the 60th anniversary of the JASDF but also the 50th anniversary of the establishment, on December 28, 1964, of the resident 8th Air Wing. 

Unlike JASDF Phantoms and Eagles, the use of composite materials on the F-2 essentially restricts the area that can be painted to the vertical tail.

Special 6 Sqn F-2B(Photo: JASDF Tsuiki AB) 

Special 6 Sqn F-2B markings(From JASDF Tsuiki AB photo)

The photo above shows the design elements marking the JASDF anniversary. Superimposed on a flesh-coloured, upward-tilted unit marking are a yellow 60 (“wearing” a red-peaked unit baseball cap) next to 周年 (anniversary) in red and above 航空自衛隊 (Kōkū Jieitai, ASDF) in blue edged in white. To the right, a yellow chrysanthemum appears above an unfurled red banner bearing the white-edged black kanji characters見敵必殺, meaning “sure to slay an enemy on sight”. 第6戦術戦闘飛行隊 (6th Tactical Fighter Squadron) appears in red along the yellow fin-tip stripe. 

Apart from the 50, the only difference on the starboard side (link), which bore the flower and banner to the left, was the 第8航空団 (8th Air Wing) above the serial number instead of Kōkū Jieitai. For a military unit somewhat incongruously known as the Flower Air Wing, the 8th traditionally places flowers, predominantly chrysanthemums, on display at special events.

Special 6 Sqn F-2B (2)(From JASDF Tsuiki AB photo) 

Note that the names of the design and paint shop teams, which only appeared on the ventral strake on the port side (above), were punctuated with Japanese-style commas (、) rather than the English commas used below and also lacked the English spacing. 

Designed by
A,Yafune Y,Ikeda
Painted by
K,Nishimura J,Kumamoto Y,Eguchi
Special Thanks
K,Kobayashi T,Uchino T,Kishimoto

DSCF4574(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 2014]: Takao Kadokami)

The source of some of the supplementary information included here, the February 2014 issue of JWings magazine features a small selection of detailed photos of this aircraft and also of the 304th Sqn F-15J that was also specially painted for the occasion.

6th TFS Special Marking (2019) 

6th Sqn F-2 (Bolfing)

The above photo shows the 6th Sqn F-2A specially painted to mark the unit’s 60th anniversary arriving at Yokota AB to take part in Friendship Festival 2019. Prepared by mid-July, the aircraft was also displayed at Ashiya in October [link] and scheduled to retain the scheme for the air show at its Tsuiki home base in December. Many photos were carried in the October 2019 issue of Kōkū Fan. (Photo [Sept. 13, 2019]: U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Brieana E. Bolfing)

(Photo [Iwakuni, May 1972]: Takao Kadokami)

A resident 6th TFS F-1 photographed on the day of Tsuiki’s 50th anniversary in November 1992.
For other photos from that day, see the Tsuiki base history page.
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

7th Sqn Formed  Feb. 1, 1960 (5th Air Wing, Matsushima, F-86F)
Disbanded  June 30, 1977 (4th Air Wing, Matsushima, F-86F)

After forming under the 5th Air Wing, the 7th Sqn’s service history was comparatively straightforward. Although a move to Nyutabaru with the 6th Sqn had been planned, the unit remained at Matsushima and was transferred to the 4th Air Wing’s command on July 1, 1960. When the 4th Air Wing assumed flight training responsibilities under Flying Training Command, with effect from August 23, 1973, the 7th’s role changed from fighter/interceptor to that of a conversion training squadron.

JASDF 7 SqnA 7th Sqn F-86F at rest on the Matsushima flight line (Photo: JASDF)

F-86F 7Sqn JASDFBasking in the spring sunshine on the Matsushima ramp in April 1975 is a lineup of 7th Sqn F-86Fs.
By then, the unit had adopted the idea of painting the last three of an aircraft’s serial
number in red on its assigned 120 U.S. gallon drop tanks.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Although the 7th Sqn was disbanded in 1977, a tragic episode in its history is still commemorated to this day. (See the Bulletin Board story for October 20, 2021.)

7th Sqn Tail Marking
Denoting the 4th Air Wing, the solid stylized “4” shared with the 5th Sqn, in light blue instead of red.

8th TFS Formed  (As 8th Sqn) Oct. 29, 1960
                      (4th Air Wing, Matsushima, F-86F)
Current Base  Tsuiki (8th Air Wing, F-2A/B, T-4)

Along with the 3rd and 6th squadrons, the 8th is one of the three current operational JASDF units that can trace their histories back to the F-86F era.

At least nine 8th Sqn F-86Fs sit on the ramp at Misawa opposite a lineup consisting primarily of
U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-323 Phantoms. The tail marking on the F-86Fs dates the photo as
having been taken during the 8th’s brief time based at Iwakuni in the mid-1960s.

(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB via Twitter @jasdf_misawa)

(Photo [Iwakuni, May 1967]: Takao Kadokami)

While at Iwakuni, 8th Sqn aircraft carried this badge next to their nose serial numbers.
J-HangarSpace has yet to unearth more details. (Photo [Iwakuni, May 1967]: Takao Kadokami)

F-86F 8Sqn JASDFThree 8th Sqn F-86F pilots prepare for a flight at their Komaki home base in August 1977.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

(Photo [Tsuiki, November 1987]: Takao Kadokami)

The second F-86F unit to form in 1960, the 8th Sqn initially came under the command of the Matsushima-based 4th Air Wing. The following year saw the start of a peripatetic existence, a succession of base changes (listed below) that culminated in 1978 with the 3rd Air Wing’s move from Komaki to Misawa. It was here that the 8th converted to the F-1 in 1980, ending F-86F operations on February 29 of that year.

8th Sqn/TFS Post-Formation Base Changes
Date Command   Base  
Apr. 25, 1961   (Joined what was then the
Provisional Komatsu Detachment*)
July 15, 1961 6th Air Wing   Komatsu  
Nov. 25, 1964   Iwakuni  
Dec, 1, 1964 82nd Air Group**   Iwakuni  
Dec. 1, 1967 3rd Air Wing   Komaki  
Apr. 1, 1978 3rd Air Wing   Misawa  
July 29, 2016 8th Air Wing   Tsuiki  
(*) The forerunner of the 6th Air Wing, the Provisional Komatsu Detachment had formed on February 1, 1961.
(**) Commenced on November 8, 1967, the move from Iwakuni to Komaki marked the demise of the 82nd Air Group.

An 8th Sqn F-86F at Misawa bears the markings carried during the unit’s Komaki era, so the photo
is presumed to have been taken around the time of the 8th’s relocation to Misawa in April 1978.

(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB via Twitter @jasdf_misawa)

JASDF 8 Sqn F-86FThis 8th Sqn F-86F carries the red Shimokita Peninsula tail marking, which dates the photo at just
prior to the unit’s conversion on to the F-1.
(Photo: JASDF)

A tactical fighter squadron since its inception, the 8th TFS began re-equipping with the Mitsubishi F-1 (termed a “support fighter” in JASDF parlance) and T-2 on June 30, 1979. The unit was declared at full strength on February 29, 1980, marking the official end of its F-86F operations. 

Participating in annual TAC Meets from the competition held in June that same year, the 8th Sqn’s F-1s were regularly involved in both SDF and U.S.-Japan joint training exercises. 

By the mid-1990s, the F-1s being flown by the three support fighter units were beginning to show ongoing signs of age. Combined with delays in the development and production of the next-generation Mitsubishi F-2, the decision was made to replace the 8th’s aircraft with the F-4EJKai as a stopgap measure. After the Komatsu-based 306th Sqn had traded in its F-4EJKai and completed conversion on to the F-15J, on March 17–18, 1997, the F-4EJs and their experienced flight and maintenance crews were transferred to Misawa, where they made up the re-formed 8th Sqn at Misawa on March 30.

(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB via Twitter @jasdf_misawa) 

An 8th TFS F-4EJKai in old-style markings comes to the end of its landing roll at
Misawa, late 1990s.
(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB via Twitter @jasdf_misawa)

8 Sqn F-4EJs Misawa
(Above) A pair of 8th TFS F-4EJKai take off during the Misawa airshow in September 2002.
(Photo: U.S. Navy/Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class John Collins via Wikimedia Commons)

(Below) In stark contrast, this colourful F-4EJKai was the 8th Sqn representative at the
traditional Culture Day airshow at Iruma in November 2002.

8th Sqn JASDF F-4EJKai

The ground attack-specialist 8th Sqn won the fighter interception trophy at the 2003 TAC Meet and successfully represented the JASDF in the live bomb-drop category during the joint U.S.-Japan Cope North exercises conducted from Andersen AB on Guam in 2005 and 2006. 

Having commenced conversion to the F-2 with the arrival of the first aircraft in April 2008, the 8th’s “stopgap” period as a Phantom squadron lasted 12 years. The final training flight was undertaken on March 6, 2009, and F-4EJKai operations were wound up on March 25. The 8th’s F-2 era started in earnest the following day.

As part of extensive reorganizational changes, the 8th TFS bade farewell to Misawa on July 12, 2016, and officially became part of the now all F-2-equipped 8th Air Wing at Tsuiki on July 29, 2016.

Marking the 60th anniversary of the 8th TFS, an “elephant walk” was staged on the Tsuiki
runway on April 19, 2021, with the specially painted aircraft
(see below) naturally
leading the procession.
(Photo: JASDF Tsuiki AB via Twitter @jasdf_tsuiki)

8th Sqn Tail Markings
In its F-86F era, the 8th’s frequent base relocations are reflected in the changes to its squadron marking.

After forming at Matsushima, the unit adopted the tail chevron in the shape of a “4”, as carried by its then 4th Sqn neighbours. While at Komatsu, the unit fell into line with the 6th Air Wing’s 4th Sqn and adopted superimposed tail chevrons in the form of stylized sixes, in the 8th’s case coloured blue and red.

(Photo [Iwakuni, May 1966]: Takao Kadokami)

During its brief time at what is today the JMSDF base at Iwakuni, the tail marking (seen on a T-33A above) comprised two light blue stripes over which were placed two red rings in the form of an “8”.

At Komaki, the unit’s distinctive red shachihoko tail marking was inherited from the 101st Sqn (see below). This dolphinlike mythical creature appears in gargoyle form on the roof of nearby Nagoya Castle and today also adorns the tails of some of the C-130Hs assigned to a current Komaki-based unit, the 401st Sqn.

The year after the move to Misawa, the 8th’s aircraft were sporting a red design that incorporated the shape of the Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture above a stylized “3”. This marking was carried over to the unit’s F-1s, which on occasion also bore the emblem in yellow. Today, this marking is retained (in blue) on T-4s assigned to the Misawa-based Northern Air Command Support Flight.

8 Sqn JASDF unit marking (F-1)8th TFS Shimokita Peninsula marking on an F-1 (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Derived from the 8th TFS’s “Panther” radio call-sign, the black panther tail marking was designed by a Tech Sgt. Yasuda and adopted for the unit’s F-1 aircraft in August 1983. Retained during the F-4EJKai era, the design still appears on its F-2s.

8 Sqn JASDFThe 8th Sqn re-equipped on the F-4EJ in March 1997 and commenced dedicated F-2 operations
on March 26, 2009. The panther tail marking, seen here on an F-2 at Komaki in February 2014,
dates back to 1983, during the F-1 era.

8th TFS 60th Anniversary Special Marking (2020)

(Photo: JASDF Tsuiki via Twitter @jasdf_tsuiki)

While the Phantoms at Hyakuri were seemingly hogging the limelight, at the other end of the country the 8th TFS was quietly marking the milestone of its 60th anniversary. Despite the absence of an airshow season, an aircraft was finished in a special scheme reminiscent of that applied to its partner 6th TFS aircraft in 2019. The ornate, banner-line script along the base of the tailfin on the left side is merely the Japanese for 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Note that the right side of the tail (below) featured the kanji for Black Panthers next to the design instead of claw marks and had a row of small tail marking emblems helping to chart the unit’s history.

(Photo: JASDF Tsuiki via Twitter @jasdf_tsuiki) 

(Photo [Iwakuni, May 1967]: Takao Kadokami)

Shot in October 2022, classy footage of 8th TFS F-2 operations can be found on the 1-300 YouTube channel (link).

9th Sqn Formed  Feb. 1, 1961 (4th Air Wing, Matsushima, F-86F)
Disbanded  Dec. 20, 1965 (7th Air Wing, Iruma, F-86F)

Five months after its formation in the fighter/interceptor role, on July 15, 1961, the 9th Sqn passed from the 4th Air Wing to the newly formed 7th Air Wing’s control, which involved no change of base from Matsushima. On May 15, 1962, the 9th made the move with the 7th Air Wing to Iruma. It was there that the unit was disbanded, having been active for just short of five years, on December 20, 1965, the date on which the 7th Air Wing was relocated to Hyakuri to oversee F-104J operations.

9th Sqn Tail Marking
A black-edged red or blue lightning flash, the lower half of which was a stylized “7” for the 7th Air Wing. 

10th Sqn Formed  Jan. 18, 1962 (5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru, F-86F)
Disbanded  Apr. 1, 1977 (8th Air Wing, Tsuiki, F-86F)

Initially operational under 5th Air Wing control at Nyutabaru, on February 1, 1964, the 10th Sqn accompanied the 6th Sqn on a move to Tsuiki, where the units came under the direct control of the Western Air Defense Force headquarters. At a ceremony held at Tsuiki on December 28 that year, the 10th officially came under the command of the 8th Air Wing, which had been formed as the Provisional Tsuiki Air Group two months before, on October 26.

F-86F 10Sqn JASDFA scene capturing some of the activity on the 10th Sqn ramp at Tsuiki in August 1976. Note the open
gun access panel on the nearest aircraft. For ease of identification, guns were marked with an
aircraft’s serial number and an installation location code, in this case RU
(right upper),
(right centre) and RL (right lower). (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

From 1972, the 8th Air Wing at Tsuiki was making preparations for the arrival of its first F-4EJs, but the 10th Sqn was to soldier on to disbandment on April 1, 1977.

10th Sqn Tail Marking
During its time at Nyutabaru, the 10th used its version of the 6th Sqn tail marking, a yellow V denoting the 5th Air Wing on a wide blue stripe. At the time of the Provisional Tsuiki Air Group in late 1964, its F-86Fs and T-33As still carried the wide blue horizontal stripe on the tail but with a stylized yellow “10” formed by a triangular fin shape and solid circle design. Taken in October 1968, this photo (link) of T-33A 51-5663 at Hamamatsu, sporting a rudder transplanted from a based 1st Air Wing aircraft, at least gives some idea of what the Provisional Tsuiki Air Group/10th Sqn tail marking looked like.

After the move to Tsuiki, the “10” was removed and two yellow triangles were added to the blue stripe in the manner of a stylized “8”, symbolizing the 8th Air Wing. (The 6th Sqn had the same design, only with a red stripe.)

(11th Sqn) Formed  (See below)
Current Base  Matsushima (Blue Impulse aerobatic display team, T-4)

The unit today designated the 11th Sqn has its origins in the F-86F era. As early as October 19, 1958, a trio of 1st Air Wing aircraft appeared as an unofficial team for that day’s air display at Hamamatsu.

The forerunner of today’s Blue Impulse aerobatic team, five F-86Fs were established under the 2nd Sqn as the Kuchukido Kenkyuhan (Air Manoeuvering Research Group) from April 12, 1960. (Some Japanese sources state that this sub-unit was not transferred to the 2nd Sqn until July 1961.) Having made its with-smoke display debut at Iruma on May 21, 1960, the unit was renamed the Tokubetsu Hiko Kenkyuhan (Special Flight Research Group) on Aug. 1, 1960. Following the 2nd Sqn’s disbandment on November 20, 1965, this unit became the Sengi Kenkyuhan (Combat Research Group).

(More details can be found on the JASDF Squadron Histories Part 2 page.)

101st Sqn Formed  Aug. 1, 1958 (3rd Air Wing, Gifu, F-86D)
Disbanded  Oct. 1, 1968 (3rd Air Wing, Komaki, F-86D)

The first JASDF all-weather fighter unit, the 101st Sqn moved to the 3rd Air Wing at Komaki on October 6, 1958, two months after its formation. (The 3rd Air Wing had itself been formed at Matsushima on December 1, 1957, and moved to Komaki on May 12, 1959.)

Having ended its conversion training role on August 22, 1967, the 101st was an interceptor squadron for less than year before disbanding.

JASDF Nara F-86DAlthough the serial number is spurious, the F-86D preserved at Nara AB serves as a good
representation of a 101st Sqn aircraft in the early 1960s.
(Photo: Hunini/Wikimedia Commons)

(Above and below) Originally delivered to the 3rd Wing then at Gifu in August 1958, this 101st Sqn
representative of the later F-86D era was present at the U.S. Armed Forces Day event held at
Iwakuni in May 1967. Still with the 101st when its service career came to an end in May
 the following year, this aircraft fortunately survived and has been on
display at Hofu Minami AB for some time.

(Photos: Takao Kadokami)

101st Sqn Tail Markings
From 1960 to 1963, all three Komaki-based F-86D squadrons carried a yellow shachihoko (see 8th Sqn) on three (signifying the 3rd Air Wing) red horizontal tail stripes above the serial number. From 1963 until their disbandment, the tail marking was a large red shachihoko with a thin horizontal stripe, green in the case of the 101st, as a unit identifier.

A lineup of 101st Sqn F-86Ds basks in the sun at Komaki on July 1, 1968, three months before the
unit’s disbandment. The 101st’s red
shachihoko tail marking is already being sported by
the 8th Sqn F-86F taxying past in the background.
(Photo: Akio Misawa)

102nd Sqn Formed  Mar. 1, 1959 (3rd Air Wing, Komaki, F-86D)
Disbanded  Dec. 1, 1967 (3rd Air Wing, Komaki, F-86D)

The first front-line JASDF unit equipped with the F-86D, the 102nd Sqn also formed at Komaki, seven months after the type’s dedicated training unit, the 101st Sqn. The 102nd officially joined its sister squadron within the 3rd Air Wing at Komaki on May 12, 1959, and commenced readiness operations from August 28 that same year. The unit’s disbandment coincided with the changing of the 3rd Air Wing to an F-86F command.

JASDF SqnThe F-86D displayed at Kumagaya AB , Saitama Prefecture, carries 102nd Sqn tail markings.

102nd Sqn Tail Markings
From 1960 to 1963, all three Komaki-based F-86D squadrons carried a yellow shachihoko (see 8th Sqn) on three (signifying the 3rd Air Wing) red horizontal tail stripes above the serial number. From 1963 until their disbandment, the tail marking was a large red shachihoko with a thin horizontal stripe, yellow in the case of the 102nd, as a unit identifier. 

103rd Sqn Formed  Mar. 1, 1960 (3rd Air Wing, Komaki, F-86D)
Disbanded  Oct. 1, 1968 (2nd Air Wing, Chitose, F-86D)

Formed under the 3rd Air Wing at Komaki, the 103rd was assigned to the air defence of northern Japan and thus moved to what was to be its sole operational home, Chitose AB, on June 10, 1961. Commenced from August 8 that year, the unit’s readiness operations came to an end after just two years, on December 1, 1963. Although the Chitose-based 203rd Sqn formed on the F-104J at Chitose on June 25, 1964, the 103rd Sqn did not disband until October 1, 1968, the same day as the 101st Sqn down in Komaki.

103rd Sqn Tail Marking
Two white-edged pale blue stripes above the serial number

105th Sqn Formed  Mar. 15, 1962 (3rd Air Wing, Komaki, F-86D)
Disbanded  Dec. 1, 1967 (3rd Air Wing, Komaki, F-86D)

The 105th Sqn was the final F-86D unit to form under the 3rd Air Wing. (As the decision to introduce the F-104 had by then already been taken, there was no 104th Sqn.) Since the F-86D suffered from a low serviceability rate and pilots were being required to convert on to the F-104, the 105th’s career spanned less than six years and ended on the same day and at the same location as that of the 102nd.

105th Sqn Tail Markings
From 1960 to 1963, all three Komaki-based F-86D squadrons carried a yellow shachihoko (see 8th Sqn) on three (signifying the 3rd Air Wing) red horizontal tail stripes above the serial number. From 1963 until their disbandment, the tail marking was a large red shachihoko with a thin horizontal stripe, blue in the case of the 105th, as a unit identifier. 

201st TFS Formed  (As Provisional F-104 Training Squadron)
 Mar. 22, 1962 (Komaki)
 (As 201st Sqn/TFS)
 Mar. 8, 1963 (2nd Air Wing, Chitose, F-104J/DJ)
 Mar. 19, 1986 (2nd Air Wing, Chitose, F-15J/DJ)
Current Base  Chitose (F-15J/DJ, 2nd Air Wing)

The Provisional F-104 Training Squadron came into being with seven U.S.-trained JASDF pilots exactly two weeks after the first flight of an F-104J in Japan, which took place at Komaki on March 8, 1962. It was not until September 17 that year that the unit received its first aircraft, a single F-104DJ and two ‘DJs.

A ceremony was held at Chitose on March 8, 1963, to mark the forming of the 201st Sqn. The training of student pilots, who were all in fact F-86D/F veterans, commenced three days later. Charged with operational testing and pilot training, there was for some time no scope for the process of working up as a fighter squadron.

201 sqn F-104JsAn excellent shot of a formation of 201st Sqn aircraft sporting the stylized crane tail marking of
the F-104J era.
(Photo: JASDF Chitose AB)

As the “mother squadron” conversion unit for the type, the 201st was ultimately responsible for conducting aggressor (AGG) and air combat manoeuvering (ACM) training as well as fighter/interception duties. Its role changed to solely that of a fighter/interceptor squadron after December 1, 1964, when the 204th Sqn was formed at Nyutabaru and took over conversion training responsibilities.

Despite the experience of its pilots, for some reason the 201st had to wait until 1972 to win its first F-104J air gunnery competition.

The 201st’s disbandment as an F-104J unit, on October 1, 1974, coincided with the forming of the Phantom-equipped 302nd Sqn.

After more than 12 years as a “paper squadron”, the intensifying Cold War resulted in the 201st being reformed, once again at Chitose, as the fourth F-15J squadron on March 19, 1986.

F-15DJ 201Sqn 1989A 201st TFS F-15DJ prepares to depart Misawa in June 1989. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Over the ensuing nearly 29 years, the 201st has shouldered—with its sister squadron, the 203rd Sqn—the responsibilities for securing Japan’s northern airspace. Having received its first modernized F-15Js in 2013, the 201st regularly participates in exercises in Japan and overseas.

201st Sqn/TFS Tail Markings
(F-104J/DJ) Although resembling a stylized “2” lightning flash in red, incorporating “01” (appeared reversed on starboard side), the design is actually a representation of the crane, a species of bird that is native to Hokkaido.

The first F-104DJ when with the 201st Sqn at Chitose in August 1973, about a year before the
squadron was temporarily disbanded. This aircraft had made its first flight from Lockheed’s
Palmdale facility on August 25, 1961. After having been airlifted to Nagoya, the then
Shin-Mitsubishi company had commenced its reassembly on February 8, 1962, and
conducted its first flight in Japan on April 27 that year. Delivery to the then
newly formed 201st followed on March 5, 1963.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

F-15DJ 201Sqn markingBear tail marking on 201st Sqn F-15DJ, September 1987 (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

201st Sqn markingA close-up of the tail of one of the 201st TFS aircraft that participated at the TAC Meet at
Hyakuri in September 2013. In addition to the standard bear’s head marking, the tail
art design featured a paw print and, in white, the two kanji characters (
闘羆) for
Fighting Brown Bears. These were in red on the CO’s aircraft.
(Photo: JASDF Chitose AB)

(F-15J/DJ) A realistic portrayal of the head of a brown bear, adopted in 1986.

202nd Sqn Formed  (F-104J/DJ)
 Mar. 31, 1964 (5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru)
 (As Provisional F-15J Squadron)
 Dec. 17, 1981 (5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru)
 (As 202nd Sqn)
 Dec. 21, 1982 (5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru, F-15J/DJ)
Disbanded  Oct. 3, 2000 (5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru, F-15J/DJ)

Unlike the frequently relocated F-86F units, those operating the F-104J tended to remain at one base. Save for the time spent temporarily based at Tsuiki (from August 20, 1980 to January 31, 1981), the 202nd was stationed at Nyutabaru for its entire existence as the first F-104J unit tasked with the fighter/interceptor role.

This 202nd Sqn F-104J was one of several SDF aircraft displayed at a Fukuoka airport event in  
September 1964. This example shows the unit insignia as it was then carried, on the engine intake.

(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

(Photo [Nyutabaru, November 1974]: Takao Kadokami)

F-104J 202 SqnThe 202nd Sqn operated the F-104J from March 1964 to December 1982. (Photo: JASDF)

Under its first commanding officer, one Lt. Col. Hikari Yoshida, the unit passed an operational inspection conducted by the Air Staff Office in September 1964. Morale was high when quick reaction alert (QRA) operations were commenced from October 1 that year.

Following the start of full-scale TAC Meet in 1979, the 202nd gained a reputation for the colour schemes applied to its aircraft specifically for the event.

F-104J 202Sqn June 1982A standard-finish 202 Sqn F-104J in flight at Komatsu in June 1982. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Flanked by signs bearing the Japanese for F-15 Provisional Squadron and 202nd Squadron, this
gathering in December 1982 marked the 202nd’s transition from the F-104J to the F-15J.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

Tradition was maintained by the 202nd forming the very first Eagle squadron, too. Formed on December 17, 1981, with one F-15Js and four F-15DJs, the Provisional F-15 Squadron became the conversion training New 202nd Sqn on December 21, 1982, by which time all the F-104Js had left. Coincidentally, the 202nd’s first F-15J CO, another lieutenant colonel, shared his predecessor’s family name, Yoshida.

The squadron added the QRA role on July 16, 1984, and had to be scrambled on the first operation of its type involving the F-15J only three days later. Having fulfilled the dual training/interceptor role for 16 years, the unit’s disbandment in 2000 resulted from the radical changes made to the JASDF pilot training syllabus following the retirement of the Fuji T-1 and Mitsubishi T-2 and the introduction of the F-2.

202 Sqn F-15JTwo F-15Js fom the now defunct 202nd Tactical Fighter Squadron take off from Nyutabaru during
the joint U.S.-Japan Exercise Cope North 85-4, August 1985.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. James R. Ferguson via Wikimedia Commons)

202nd Sqn disbandment ceremony photo call, October 2000 (Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

202nd Sqn Markings
(F-104J/DJ) In yellow with red shadowing, a stylized Roman numeral “V” (“5”) denoting the 5th Air Wing was applied to the engine intakes (up to June 1965) and subsequently (from mid-1968), in slightly re-designed form, on the vertical tail surfaces.

202Sqn F-104J 640920Then devoid of a tail marking, the F-104J shown earlier, parked with the access panel to
the avionics bay aft of the cockpit in the open position.
(Photo [Fukuoka airport, Sept. 1964]: Takao Kadokami)

F-15J 202Sqn markingHaniwa marking on 202nd Sqn F-15J, November 1983 (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

(F-15J/DJ) In the form of an ancient warrior, a clay figurine known as a haniwa, of the kind excavated from the Saitobaru ancient burial mound complex located close to Nyutabaru AB.

202 Sqn JASDF 1994(Photo [January 1994]: Takao Kadokami)

203rd TFS Formed  (As 203rd Sqn) June 25, 1964 (3rd Air Wing, Komaki, F-104J/DJ)
Current Base  Chitose (2nd Air Wing, F-15J/DJ and T-4)

The 203rd Sqn commenced QRA duties as a de facto air defence squadron from Chitose on December 1, 1964, roughly five months after its formation at Komaki as the second operational unit under the command of Lt. Col. Kimio Hisamatsu.

201 Sqn F-104J 1982On May 1, 1982, a pair of 203rd Sqn F-104Js returns to Kwangju AB in South Korea during that
year’s Cope North military exercise. ‘541 was one of the 22 F-104Js that had been transferred
to the Taiwan Air Force by 1987.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Terry Smith via Wikimedia Commons)

Proving its mettle on a number of occasions by victories at JASDF TAC meets, the 203rd also attended joint training exercises overseas, its aircraft visiting such locations as Hawaii and Alaska during the course of the 1980s.

The decision having been made to re-equip with the F-15J, the number of F-104Js was gradually reduced following the receipt of the first two F-15Js on April 13, 1983; conversion as the second F-15J squadron was completed on March 24, 1984.

203 Sqn F-15J(Photo: JASDF Chitose AB)

The 203rd recorded its first TAC Meet victory in 1985 and, with the 201st TFS, participated in the joint U.S.-Japan Cope Thunder exercise in Alaska in 2003. 

December 1, 2014, marked the 30th anniversary of the day the 203rd started conducting QRA operations with the F-15J in 1984. The unit is unique among the F-15J units in that its aircraft operate from shelters, and the majority of its related command facilities are located underground.

203 sqn JASDF tail markingAshiya gate guard F-104J, September 2000

203rd Sqn/TFS Tail Marking
Like the 201st, its sister squadron at Chitose, the 203rd’s marking is based on a representative species of Hokkaido wildlife. A cartoon-like brown bear (in black and white) is flanked by stylized red flashes—“2” on the left and “3” on the right—and carries two red stars (denoting the 2nd Air Wing) on its “0”-shaped belly.

203rd TFS Special Markings (2022)

(Photo [July 2022]: とらび改め二ヤントム via Twitter @taka_nrko_gt3)

The above photo shows the 203rd TFS F-15DJ that sported the special tail marking designed for the first Chitose air show in three years. (The right side can be equally clearly seen in this photo [link].)

(Photo: JASDF Chitose AB via Twitter @jasdf_chitose)

Shown above in close-up on the (assigned unit unconfirmed) F-15J 22-8806 on the day of the show, the design comprised two discs on a white runway background. The Japanese in the upper disc was the “Connecting people, Connecting the world: Sky Town Chitose” slogan of the City of Chitose’s latest PR campaign, hence the “7th Comprehensive Plan” in English that appeared at the base of the disc.

The self-explanatory 96th Anniversary design commemorated the day in 1926, when local residents of what was then Chitose village cleared a landing field to receive the first civil aircraft seen in the area. (See Chitose entry on JASDF Base Histories page.) More obscurely, the number ‘96’ was also a reference to the year 1996, when a second runway was completed, thereby allowing separate civil-military operations; presumably the ‘6’ was highlighted as 2022 marked the sixth anniversary of that event. A variety of other aviation-themed events were planned to coincide with the air show.

203rd TFS Special Markings (2023)

A close-up of the revised special tail marking paraded for the press prior to
the Chitose 2023 air show; see July 2023 Bulletin Board story.
(Photo [July 18, 2023]: JASDF Chitose via Twitter @jasdf_chitose)

204th Sqn Formed  Dec. 1, 1964 (5th Air Wing, Nyutabaru, F-104J/DJ)
Current Base  Naha (9th Air Wing, F-15J/DJ and T-4)

The third and final F-104J unit to form in 1964, the 204th started life as a conversion squadron under Lt. Col. Tadashi Mitsuzaki, who had previously commanded the 201st Sqn at Chitose. The unit relinquished its training role in favour of QRA fighter/interceptor duties in October 1968, by which time a total of 509 pilots had passed through the training course.

204 sqn F-104J b&wA 204th Sqn F-104J takes off from Nyutabaru. In JASDF service the Starfighter was given the
unoffical nickname
Eiko, meaning glory. (Photo: JASDF)

The fifth F-104DJ photographed when with the 204th Sqn, the then conversion training unit at
Nyutabaru, in August 1976. The aircraft was then already 14 years into an operational career
that was to end six years later in July 1982.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

(Photo [Nyutabaru, Nov. 1982]: Takao Kadokami)

The 204th was temporarily based at Komatsu from August 20, 1980 to January 27, 1981, but otherwise remained at Nyutabaru throughout its F-104J period.

Having received its first two F-15Js at Hyakuri on April 16, 1984, F-104J operations were gradually downsized. The majority of the pilots converted to the new type, 10 remaining with the re-equipping 204th. Officially marked on March 2, 1985, the switch from flying the F-104J from Nyutabaru to the F-15J from Hyakuri prompted the move of the 301st Sqn’s Phantoms to Nyutabaru, where they were maintained by retrained, former 204th Sqn ground crews.

204 Sqn F-15JA 204 Sqn F-15J flies over its then home base of Hyakuri during Exercise Keen Sword 05 on
November 17, 2004.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Val Gempis via Wikimedia Commons)

In 2008, in response to the changing security situation in the seas around Japan, the decision was taken to bolster the capabilities of the Okinawa-based Southwestern Composite Air Division. Begun on January 8, 2009, the resulting transfer of the 204th’s operations from Hyakuri to Naha was completed on January 19. The Phantom-equipped 302nd Sqn vacated Naha and headed in the opposite direction to Hyakuri, and the 204th assumed responsibility for QRA operations from March 12, 2009.

(Photo [posted Jan. 2021]: JASDF Naha AB via Twitter @Naha_AirBase)

204 Sqn F-104JThe F-104J preserved at Nyutabaru, seen here in November 2000, retains 204th Sqn markings.

204th Sqn Tail Markings
A variation of the same Air Wing’s 202nd Sqn marking, a Roman numeral “V” (“5”), denoting the 5th Air Wing, in this case blue with yellow shadowing

204th Sqn JASDF marking
(F-15J) An eagle’s head (shown above), adopted in 1984.

204th Sqn Special Markings 

November 1984 204th Sqn 20th Anniversary

204th F-104J 1984

(Above and below) Sighted on the Nyutabaru flight line in November 1984 was this 204th Sqn
F-104J sporting specially painted wingtip tanks to mark the unit’s 20th anniversary. At that
time, the 204th was already winding down F-104J operations and converting to the F-15J.
(Photos: Takao Kadokami)

JASDF 204th Sqn 20th anniv

1991 10th Anniversary of JASDF F-15J Operations 22-8806 (link)

1995 10th Anniversary of 204th’s Reforming on F-15J  22-8940 “Shooting Eagle” design (link)

October 1995 204th Sqn 30th Anniversary  32-8826 (link)

December 2014 204th Sqn 50th Anniversary

Viewable via the niconico video sharing website, the Tsubasa TV channel carried a report on the ceremony that was held at Naha on December 13, 2014, to mark the 204th’s 50th anniversary. As is customary, the event featured an aircraft specially painted for the occasion (link). The aircraft sported the striped drop tank design that had been carried on the F-104J 30 years before.

December 2023 Naha AB air show

The tail and drop tanks of a 204th Sqn aircraft were adorned with an intricate Ryukyuan
design. At the time of writing, no images of the aircraft’s left side could be found.
(Photo: RUNWAY FUN via X [formerly Twitter] @RUNWAY_FUN)
(See December 2023 Bulletin Board story.)

More details of the ornate drop tank marking on ’945 can be seen in this still from a short YouTube
video. Incorporated into the design i
s 美ら島 (Beautiful Island) , the first word (chura) being in
the Ryukyuan dialect.
(Image from YouTube channel ちんあなご [link])

204th Sqn Special Markings (Norse Nose Art, 1990–2003)

Often seen in references to the 204th Sqn, the name Mystic Eagle has appeared at various times on its aircraft and even accompanying a far from scary manga design of a “Valkyrie” on squadron patches.

Developing a theme from the squadron’s standard eagle marking, it seems that some maintenance team member(s) turned to Norse mythology for inspiration for a series of designs applied to F-15Js that participated in the TAC Meets in the 1990s. This explains the origin, and passing use, of the Mystic Eagle name, though they had probably meant Mythic Eagle.

Starting with small Valkyrie “kill” markings in 1990 and 1992, the idea grew into elaborate eagle designs. Inspiration seems to have come from the god Odin, who transforms into an eagle, and Veorfölnir, a hawk that sits between the eyes of an unnamed eagle.

1990 TAC Meet  (Chitose/Misawa)   62-8878
Created by the illustrator Satoshi Watanabe, who was then serving as a staff sergeant on the 204th’s maintenance team, the original design appears in a monochrome profile on page 104 of a Japanese book, the title of which translates to JASDF TAC Meet Colour Schemes 1979–2000, published by Green Arrow in 2001.

1992 TAC Meet (Komatsu/Misawa)  e.g. 22-8935
As depicted in the above-mentioned Green Arrow book (p. 108), a more elaborate weapon-wielding Valkyrie straddling a griffin design appeared on the left side of the nose of this aircraft. As well as a different coloured griffin, each 204th aircraft participating in that year’s TAC Meet carried the different weapon, such as an arrow, bow or, in this case, what appears to be a dagger, in an artwork on the right side of its nose. Compared with other units, which adopted the same design, these designs naturally took a lot more time and effort to produce.

1994 TAC Meet (Chitose/Komatsu/Misawa) Mystic Eagle I 

Featuring more Mac-assisted creations from Satoshi Watanabe, these larger designs appeared above the words MYSTIC EAGLE, in 22-8940’s case with the letters reversed, a design device popular among JASDF paint teams. (For side view and other images, see Green Arrow book, p. 114)

72-8883 (Photo [probably Hyakuri, Oct. 1994]: ぼんべ (Bombe) via Twitter @bombe3939)

12-8928  (Photo [probably Hyakuri, Oct. 1994]: ぼんべ (Bombe) via Twitter @bombe3939)

22-8929 (link)

Taken from the opening scene of a YouTube video, a 204th Sqn pilot waits to taxy out to display at
the 1994 Hyakuri air show. This shows the cobra-hunting, griffon-like eagle TAC Meet nose art
then carried on this aircraft. The photo in the above link shows the Valkyrie figure on the other
side of the nose.
(Shot by Kotaken, the nine-minute video [link] is worth a watch.)

22-8935 (link)

22-8940 (Photo [probably Hyakuri, Oct. 1994]: ぼんべ (Bombe) via Twitter @bombe3939)

At some stage during the TAC Meet, after this photo was taken, all the serial numbers of
204th CO Lt. Col. Akitsugu Tsuji’s aircraft were edged in white.
(Photo [probably Hyakuri] : ぼんべ (Bombe) via Twitter @bombe3939)

1996 TAC MEET (Komatsu) Mystic Eagle II

The second iteration of Mystic Eagle nose art, which was unveiled at the 1996 TAC Meet, comprised Valkyrie designs from six people. The designs on the left side of the nose had realistic colour features, whereas those on the right had monotone, manga-style distorted features.

92-8909 / 02-8918 / 12-8928 / 22-8940 (note that [link] is incorrectly dated 1994, CO’s aircraft)

Spare aircraft F-15DJs 32-8083 / 084 (also carried nose art)

1997 TAC Meet (Misawa/Nyutabaru) Mystic Eagle III

For the low-viz air combat maneuvering (ACM) designs in 1997, three manga artists known to Watanabe were brought in to help.

32-8941 (link) / 42-8948 (link) A side view of ‘941 and two small marking photos can be found on page 123 of the Green Arrow book.
plus 92-8909 (link) / 92-8912 (link) / 22-8935 (link) (Spare aircraft, did not take part)

(32-8826 Mystic Eagle III tail marking, not nose art, for 1995 30th anniversary)
72-8888 did not participate in TAC Meet but was painted with Mystic Eagle-type markings for the October 1997 air show. Both sides of the nose are shown in this blog (link).

1998 TAC Meet (Chitose/Misawa) Mystic Eagle IV

12-8924 (link) From Hasegawa box: Left nose art designed by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto /
right nose art by Yutaka Izubuchi (Box art photo: Akira Sada)

For the 1998 TAC Meet at Hyakuri, one of the five designs had an eagle above the words Mystic Eagle IV; the designers had reverted to a Valkyrie design for the CO’s aircraft.

92-8912 / 42-8945 (link) / 42-8948 (link) / 42-8949 (link)

A decision by the then squadron CO called a halt to S/Sgt Watanabe and his team’s design efforts prior to the 1999 TAC Meet at Komatsu/Misawa. However, they were resumed for the three TAC Meets from 2001 to 2003.

For details of Mystic Eagle VII to IX, and the earlier efforts outlined above, Satoshi Watanabe has a website devoted to 204th Sqn nose art (link), pointers to which have scattered throughout the preceding text. 

205th Sqn Formed  Mar. 31, 1965 (6th Air Wing, Komatsu, F-104J/DJ)
Disbanded  June 30, 1981 (6th Air Wing, Komatsu, F-104J/DJ)

Charged with the air defence role on the Sea of Japan side of the country, the 205th Sqn had only seven aircraft equipped with cannon at the time of the unit’s formation. The probable reason was, at that time, the hit rate with the cannon was still low and the cause was being frantically investigated.

The 205th was temporarily based at Hyakuri from February 7, 1973 to October 20, 1973, but otherwise remained at Komatsu throughout its history.

F-104J 205 Sqn Del Mar targetStill bearing tail marking traces of its time assigned to the 207th Sqn, a 205th Sqn F-104J sits
ready for an afternoon target-towing mission from Komatsu in August 1979. A highly radar-
reflective, lightweight (200lb/90kg) plastic target for use at high speed by interceptor pilots,
the Del Mar TDU-10 shown was reeled out on the A/A-37U-15 tow system’s 20,000-feet
(6,100m) cable; the process would take around two and a half minutes. The target’s
honeycomb structure was filled with chalk powder, which produced an aircraft- 
like contrail for easy verification of a successful attack.
Following the 1968 signing of a technical tie-up agreement with Del Mar Avionics Inc.,
NIPPI Corporation
(now a Kawasaki subsidiary) started to manufacture these aerial
targets under licence in Japan. The agreement also covered the Dart tactical fighter system.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

The changeable weather over the Sea of Japan, particularly in the winter months, would often dictate that the 205th conduct its training from the generally more hospitable climes of Hyakuri or Nyutabaru. As it was, lightning strikes are thought to have been the likely cause of several aircraft and pilot losses over the sea. More often than not, 204th Sqn aircraft would be equipped with underwing fuel tanks in the winter to enable diversion to an alternative airfield.

Raining on their parade. The weather most likely matching the mood, a senior office gives an
address on the occasion of the 205th Sqn’s pre-disbandment ceremony, Komatsu, June 12, 1981.

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

Following the 205th’s disbandment in June 1981, its traditions were passed on to the Phantom-equipped 306th Sqn.

205th Sqn Tail Markings
From November 1967, a tail marking of a red stylized “6” (for 6th Air Wing) turned through 90 degrees and indicating the Starfighter’s speed.

A T-33A wearing the 205th’s early red stylized “6” tail marking.
(Photo [Nyutabaru, March 1978]: Takao Kadokami)

F-104DJ 205Sqn marking205th Sqn tail marking on F-104DJ, August 1980 (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

A new tail marking, applied in April/May 1978, was retained until disbandment. Sometimes superimposed on a blue disc, the design comprised a red stylized “6” silhouetted in white, to represent the shape of Ishikawa Prefecture, where Komatsu is located, and the 石 (ishi) of Ishikawa. From that time, a smaller version of the former stylized “6” tail marking design was moved to the sides of the engine intakes.

206th Sqn Formed  Dec. 20, 1965 (7th Air Wing, Hyakuri, F-104J/DJ)
Disbanded  Dec. 1, 1978 (7th Air Wing, Hyakuri, F-104J/DJ)

Dating back to its formation in the F-86F era at Matsushima in July 1961, the 7th Air Wing had moved to Iruma the following year. In 1965, the plan was to relocate the wing following the completion of Hyakuri, which was then being developed as the capital’s primary air defence base.

F-104J 206Sqn 1973Seen at its Hyakuri home base in December 1973, this 206th Sqn F-104J is equipped with a
19-tube LAU-3/A 2.75-inch (70mm) rocket launcher under its port wing. Originally
produced by Varo, Inc.
(now part of L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc.), the
launcher has been manufactured under licence in Japan as the J/LAU-3/A.

(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Due to problems in acquiring additional land at Hyakuri, the construction of the 7th Wing’s facilities suffered a delay. This resulted in an unorthodox start to the 206th’s existence, as the squadron formed with the wing headquarters left behind at Iruma. Training had to be conducted from Chitose, Komatsu and Nyutabaru air bases, and it was to be August 1967, nearly two years later than planned, that the 206th could commence QRA duties in earnest.

The 206th’s disbandment coincided with the formation of the Phantom-equipped 306th Sqn. On November 30, 1978, a flypast by three F-104Js marked the final farewell; the 206th officially handed over its duties to the 306th the following day.

206 Sqn F-104J tailThe stylized “7” was reversed on the starboard side, as seen here on the Hyakuri base
collection’s F-104J, October 2000.

206th Sqn Tail Marking
A red and white plum blossom, denoting Kairaku Park in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture (close to Hyakuri), superimposed on a blue stylized “7”, denoting the 7th Air Wing.

207th Sqn Formed  Mar. 1, 1966 (7th Air Wing, Hyakuri, F-104J/DJ)
Disbanded  Mar. 19, 1986 (83rd Air Wing, Naha, F-104J/DJ)

The final F-104J unit, the 207th was formed when at only half strength, in terms of both aircraft and personnel. The cooperation of its base neighbour, the 206th Sqn, was indispensable in allowing 15 aircraft to be present for the inauguration ceremony.

More than a year and a half was to pass before the 207th had the standard complement of 18 aircraft at its disposal. Although a squadron would normally be expected to assume QRA duties about six months after forming, the 207th had to wait until August 1967 before accepting the role for which it was intended.

The initial deficit was more than made up following the U.S. return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty in 1972, as the 207th’s ranks were swelled to 25 assigned aircraft. Its QRA duties from Hyakuri were brought to an end in September 1972, and the move to 83rd Air Wing at Naha was completed on November 10.

F-104J 207Sqn 1982

(Above) Komatsu hosted the June 1982 inter-squadron TAC Meet, among the competitors of which
was this pair of camouflaged F-104Js from Naha-based 207th Sqn. Both sported an overall two-
tone grey camouflage scheme, the aircraft nearest the camera featuring a black nose radome.

(Below) Then in 207th Sqn service, the first JASDF F-104DJ proceeds along the taxiway at
Hyakuri in October 1984. This aircraft had arrived at Komaki aboard a Flying Tiger Line
Canadair CL-44 on February 8, 1962. Note that the F-104DJs lacked the black coating on
the Mach cone and engine intake lips of the F-104Js. Applied instead was an electro-thermal
anti-icing coating called Spraymat, developed by the British company D. Napier and Son.
This took the form of a pattern of flame-sprayed metal heating elements embedded
between two layers of resin applied in liquid form by spraying.

(Photos: Akira Watanabe)

F-104DJ 207Sqn 1984

(Photo [Nyutabaru, March 1978]: Takao Kadokami)

The 207th was still at Naha when it became the last F-104J unit to disband, in March 1986.

207th Sqn Tail Markings
(1966-72, Hyakuri) A red and white plum blossom, denoting Kairaku Park in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture (close to Hyakuri), superimposed on a red stylized “7”, denoting the 7th Air Wing.

207 sqn F-104J tailA slightly weather-worn example of the 207th’s tail marking, seen on the F-104J preserved at
Tsuiki in September 2000.

(1972-1986, Naha) A red and white flash forming a stylized “2”, incorporating a red-outlined white “7”. Within an elliptically shaped blue disc that represents “0” were four white diamond-shaped stars in a diamond formation, representing the Southern Cross. In Japan, this constellation is only visible from Okinawa.

Kumagaya F-104J (unit markings)The engine intakes of the F-104J preserved at Kumagaya AB, Saitama Prefecture, bear this emblem,
which first appeared on the two 207th Sqn aircraft that participated at the 1984 TAC Meet.
The emblem contains rough representations of the tail markings of all seven
front-line units that operated the type.
The central 207th Sqn marking is surrounded by
(clockwise from top right) those of the
204th, 205th, 206th, 201st, 202nd and 203rd squadrons.

301st TFS Formed  (As Provisional F-4EJ Squadron)
 Aug. 1, 1972 (Hyakuri)
 (As 301st Sqn)
 Oct. 16, 1973 (7th Air Wing, Hyakuri, F-4EJ)
Current Base  Misawa (3rd Air Wing, F-35A and T-4)

When the Provisional F-4EJ Squadron formed in August 1972, the unit had only two aircraft on strength. The first operational conversion course for future F-4EJ pilots commenced on February 25, 1973, eight months before the full-fledged formation of this the first squadron to operate the type. The 301st retains the role of operational conversion unit.

301 Sqn JASDF after move(Photo: JASDF)

(Photo [Tsuiki, August 1978]: Takao Kadokami)

The 301st’s move from Hyakuri to Nyutabaru (official ceremony seen above) took place on March 2, 1985, the day that the Starfighter-equipped 205th Sqn went in the reverse direction to re-equip on the F-15J/DJ.

The unit started to receive examples of the upgraded F-4EJKai in April 1991. This move was preceded by changes made to the conversion course, which was eventually to cover the upgraded version alone.

301Sqn oobAn F-4EJKai Phantom from the 301st TFS that shared Nyutabaru AB with the Tactical Fighter
Training Group’s Aggressor Squadron before moving to Hyakuri in October 2016. Under plans
announced in December 2013, the JASDF was to increase the number of its fighter units from 
12 to 13 squadrons and accept delivery of 28 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs by 2018.

301Sqn F-4EJ special mkng
Two fine studies of the 301st TFS F-4EJ
Kai that was painted in a special 40th anniversary colour
asheme in October 2013. The wording along the upper fuselage reads
Phantom Mother Squadron,
Est. on the 16th of October in 1973 on the gold bar beneath the 301.
(Photo above: JASDF; below: Miya.m via Wikimedia Commons)

301Sqn F-4EJ special

Since the disbandment of the F-15J Eagle-equipped 202nd Sqn in October 2000, the 301st has also single-handedly shouldered the 5th Air Wing’s QRA responsibilities. The October 13, 2013, edition of the local newspaper, the Miyazaki Nichinichi Shimbun, reported that around 290 people had attended the previous day’s ceremony at Nyutabaru held to mark the 301st Sqn’s 40th anniversary.

301 Sqn JASDF NyutabaruA preliminary ceremony was held at Nyutabaru on October 2, 2016, to mark the imminent end of
the 301st TFS’s long residency.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

After an absence of 31 years, the 301st TFS returned to its Hyakuri birthplace as part of a reorganization on October 31, 2016. The November 2017 issue of Koku Fan, which appeared in mid-September, reported that the unit was then scheduled to soldier on with the Phantom until fiscal 2020, when it would follow the 302nd TFS in transitioning to the F-35A and swap places with the ultimately Hyakuri-bound 3rd TFS’s F-2s at Misawa.

Hyakuri 301st special F-4EJAs it fell to the 301st TFS to mark the end of the F-4EJ Phantom II’s frontline service career, an
aircraft was naturally given a special paint scheme. A prominent feature are yellow scarves,
carrying either five or seven stars, along the cockpit sides and drop tanks as well as
above the wings. Denoting the two air wings to which the unit was assigned—the
(1973–1985), the 5th (1985–2016) and the 7th again (2016 to 2020)—the
stars have normally adorned the scarf of the frog tail marking, which
in this case has been enlarged.

phantomtour301crs(Photos: JASDF Hyakuri)

Unveiled in mid-April 2020, the 301st TFS’s second specially marked aircraft was also much in
evidence in the run-up to the unit’s disbandment, which took place on December 15, 2020
For more photos, see the
Bulletin Board entry for April 15, 2020. (Photo: JASDF/Hyakuri AB)

(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB via Twitter @jasdf_hyakuri)

301st Sqn/TFS Tail Markings
Applied from 1974, the 301st’s tail marking is derived from a species of frog found on Mt. Tsukuba, close to Hyakuri AB. The frog motif is a play on words, as kaeru (frog) can also mean “to return home,” implying to return to base safe and sound. 

301 Sqn JASDF badge (T-4)The 301st Sqn’s frog tail marking seen on a T-4 at Iwakuni in September 2012.

When based at Hyakuri, the yellow scarf around the frog’s neck was adorned with seven black stars, denoting the 7th Air Wing. Thus, two stars were deleted following the move to Nyutabaru and reinstated when the unit returned to Hyakuri in October 2016.

(Photo: JASDF Misawa via Twitter @jasdf_misawa)

The return of the frog. Japanese advertising often makes use of a play on the word kaeru, which can mean ‘to return’ or ‘frog’. As was expected, a low-visibility version of the 301st’s frog tail marking was on view at the squadron flag handover ceremony held at Misawa on December 15, 2020. Also as expected, the scarf now carries just three stars to symbolize the 3rd Air Wing.

With two days to go to the Hyakuri air show that was held on December 2, 2019, members give their
squadron number in the form of a hand signal as they pose in front of the specially painted Phantom 
featured in flight in the previous section. As the base was scheduled to host the SDF Review in
2020, the show was billed as the final public appearance there of 301st TFS Phantoms.
(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

Choosing to largely ignore one of the measures recommended to limit the spread of COVID-19
infections, the 301st held a masked PR event at Hyakuri that featured its last two specially
marked aircraft. With less than a year to run before the squadron bade a final farewell to
the Phantom, surely a message could have been written on all that wasted white space.
 (Photo [Apr. 15, 2020]: JASDF/Hyakuri AB)

Misawa, December 15, 2020. The masks were off at the standard-procedure squadron flag handover
ceremony to officially welcome the 301st TFS this time to the 3rd Air Wing fold.

(Photo: JASDF Misawa via Twitter @jasdf_misawa)

Three Decades Ago: Nyutabaru 1990

(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

Having participated in that year’s TAC Meet, four shark-mouthed 301st Sqn aircraft sported a sequence of five stars on their fuselages to denote the 5th Air Wing. The tails were painted black with a red fin tip, as seen here in colour on ’367 (link), which was still sporting the special markings in February 1991.

(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

Assigned to the 301st’s CO, ’371 (above) had two blue stars on each intake vane. More prominently seen on the left side, as seen below in the detail from the lid of a Hasegawa plastic model kit, its shark’s teeth are biting through a TDU-10B target dart.

(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

’415 had already been among the most photographed of 301st Sqn Phantoms the year before, as one of those that had had the word Amigo emblazoned on their fuselages (link).

301st TFS 2000 TAC Meet Markings

One of at least three 301st TFS aircraft that were still wearing the unit’s TAC Meet marking for
2000, 47-8351 in the air and on the ground at the Nyutabaru air show, November 2000.

(Photos: [top] BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30); [above] J-HangarSpace)

The 301st TFS aircraft that had participated at the TAC Meet 2000, which had been held at Chitose and Misawa, were still wearing their markings at their home base Nyutabaru air show that November.

As it had been the previous year, the ever-popular shark mouth was again included in plain white.

(Above and below) The aircraft featured here, 47-8351, provides an example of the “stop the
cobra” cartoon design; a “Spook” character seemingly rushing to the assistance of a
black frog wearing a 301st TFS scarf and holding a cobra.

Seen taking off from Nyutabaru that day in November 2000 (above), ’351 ended up being used for
spares, as evidenced by this photo
(link) from October 2014.
(Photos: [top] BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30); [above] J-HangarSpace)

“301 FS SINCE 1973”

(Photos [Nov. 2023]: K.otani via X [formerly Twitter] @kotaken8022)

302nd TFS Formed

 (As Provisional F-4EJ Squadron)
 July 18, 1974 (F-4EJ, 2nd Air Wing, Chitose)

 (As 302nd Sqn/TFS)
 Oct. 1, 1974 (2nd Air Wing, Chitose, F-4EJ)

Current Base  Misawa (3rd Air Wing, F-35A and T-4)

The first operational rather than training F-4EJ unit, the 302nd’s base assignment in Hokkaido meant that it was to be involved in an infamous incident less than two years after its commencement of full-fledged operations.

On September 6, 1976, defecting Soviet Air Force pilot Viktor Belenko managed to avoid detection and land his MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor at Hakodate airport, overrunning the runway in the process. The failure in air defence and the 302nd Sqn’s actual lack of involvement after having been scrambled prompted a major rethink of the overall system. This ultimately led to the acquisition of the F-15J Eagle, with its superior look-down radar capabilities, and airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft.

302nd F-4EJs ChitoseA pair of 302nd F-4EJs seen during the unit’s 11-year residency at Chitose.
(Photo: JASDF Chitose AB)

The 302nd Sqn moved from Chitose to Naha to join the 83rd Air Wing on November 26, 1985, prompted by the reformation of the 201st Sqn on the F-15J at Chitose and the disbandment of the Starfighter-equipped 207th Sqn at Naha.

In 1987, there occurred what was later referred to in the Japanese press as the December 9 Incident. Incursions into Japanese airspace by a Soviet Air Force Tupolev Tu-16 Badger crew prompted a 302nd Sqn F-4EJ pilot to become the first to fire warning shots, on two occasions on the same intercept mission.

F-4EJKai PhantomA lone 302nd TFS Phantom cruises above the clouds on a flight from the unit’s former base of
Naha AB, Okinawa Prefecture. The JASDF consolidated the major part of its Phantom
operations at Hyakuri AB, Ibaraki Prefecture, in early 2009.
(Photo: JASDF)

(Photo [Naha, May 1990]: Takao Kadokami)

The 302nd TFS progressively re-equipped with the F-4EJKai during the course of 1993. Following a temporary ban imposed on F-15J operations in November 2007, several of the unit’s aircraft were deployed to Hyakuri. As it turned out, late the following year saw the 302nd’s 23-year association with Okinawa brought to an end. Plans were made for a permanent move to Hyakuri, involving a base swap with the F-15J Eagle-equipped 204th Sqn. Completed on March 13, 2009, the 302nd’s phased move to the 7th Air Wing was formalized two weeks later, on March 26.

A plaque in front of the preserved 302nd TFS F-4EJ left behind at Naha includes details of the unit’s cumulative number of scrambles, which reached the 1,000 mark on April 29, 1988, 1,500 on April 13, 1995, and 2,000 on June 8, 2007. During its time at Naha, the unit won the TAC Meet a total of eight times.

On March 7, 2015, a ceremony was held at Hyakuri to mark the 302nd Sqn’s 40th anniversary. The event was attended by a total of 115 former unit personnel, including the first commanding officer Akio Suzuki, whose military career started with his graduation, aged 23, from the National Defense Academy’s Department of Electrical Engineering in 1957. 

Part of the day’s events involved the taking of a group photo of unit personnel past and present in front of the specially marked Phantom, which had first flown in its new scheme on February 13. Gracing the covers of the May issues of both JWings and Koku Fan, the aircraft is painted black overall with colourful elements of the eagle design superimposed on the fuselage and wings; yellow legs and talons were added to the underwing tanks. (A short video of the aircraft on takeoff can be found here [link]). Note that the aircraft had CHITOSE-NAHA-HYAKURI above the red eagle design on the port side of the fuselage, but the ICAO airfield codes RJCJ-ROAH-RJAH on the starboard side. 

The November 2017 issue of Koku Fan, which appeared in mid-September, reported that a Provisional F-35A Squadron would be forming at the end of fiscal 2017 and work up to strength with 20 aircraft to enable the 302nd Sqn to re-form on the type at Misawa by the end of fiscal 2018. The low-visibility scheme of the new type made it unlikely that the colourful eagle emblem would be passed on to the unit’s F-35As.

JASDF 302 Sqn 190326The scene at Misawa on March 26, 2019, when the 302nd TFS was officially reformed from
the Provisional F-35A Squadron under the 3rd Air Wing.
 Training flights got
under way on April 1.
(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB)

After winding down its Phantom operations during the course of 2018, which included painting two aircraft in special schemes, the 302nd TFS completed its move to Misawa in March 2019.

302 Sqn JASDF markingThe tail markings on the 302nd TFS F-4EJKai present at the Iruma air show in November 2009.

302 Sqn JASDF PhantomA pair of specially marked Mitsubishi-built F-4EJKai Phantoms of the JASDF’s 302nd TFS takes
off from Hyakuri, Ibaraki Prefecture, during the base air show on December 2, 2018. As the
curtain was about to fall on the squadron’s long association with the type, which dated
back 44 years to 1974, the aircraft were publicizing the end of an era.
A video of one of the aircraft can be viewed here

302nd Sqn/TFS Tail Markings
Following the 301st’s example, the 302nd originally chose a species of wildlife that inhabits mountains near to its then home base as its tentative marking. In this case, it was the ojirowashi (white-tailed sea eagle), the range of which extends across Hokkaido.

The original black and white design was only briefly applied to a handful of aircraft before the official, more colourful variation was decided on in September 1975. The design comprises “3” blue, swept-back wings, a white triangular tail for the “0” and “2” yellow talons. The marking’s creator, Tadao Yamamoto, was present at the unit’s 40th anniversary event in March 2015.

During its Phantom era, the 302nd was the sole JASDF fighter squadron that did not have to conform with the stipulation that unit markings be toned down and smaller than the hinomaru national marking. The tails of its F-35As initially carried only their serial numbers, but in early March 2020 Misawa released a photo (below) of the unit’s new, low-visibility eagle marking, complete with explanatory 3-0-2 highlighting the elements.

(Photo: JASDF Misawa AB)

302nd TFS 2007 TAC Meet Markings

Accompanied by a standard F-4EJKai, one of the three 302nd TFS aircraft that had been finished in
special markings for the 2007 TAC Meet climbs out after takeoff from Naha.

(Photo: BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30)

Three aircraft that had formed the 302nd TFS’s contingent for the 2007 TAC Meet retained their elaborate special markings for the Naha air show held in December of that year.

On one aircraft (07-8428), the dragon-like eagle’s head nose markings were in low-visibility black and grey, but on the black-tailed CO’s mount (87-8414) were contrastingly in very high-visibility red, yellow and black.

(Above and below) The F-4EJKai 07-8428 taxies in at the Naha air show, December 9, 2007. Four
pilot’s names and TAC names are on the engine intake splitter plate, and that of the maintenance
crew chief
(C/C A1C K.NISHIDA) below the cockpit windscreen. (Photos: [Top]
BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30; [above] たつなお via Twitter @tatsunao11)

(Photos via Twitter: [Top] BANCHOUさん @BANF30; [above] たつなお @tatsunao11)

The right-side engine intake splitter plate designs on ’428 differed from those on the left side in
comprising a list of the ground crew’s names and a cartoon of a pair of “Spook” characters,
complete with speech bubbles, playing with a missile. At the bottom were groups of letters
that have proved largely undecipherable from photos but appear to have been
abbreviations of the areas of responsibility for the ground crew members and
their initials. Note the shark mouth and eye on the centreline fuel tank.

(Photo: aya01@長野県特地派遣隊 via Twitter @aya01flt)

The F-4EJKai 87-8414 shows off the none-too-subtle differences in its markings that resulted in its
selection as the subject of a Fujimi plastic model.
(Photo: BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30)

(Photo: aya01@長野県特地派遣隊 via Twitter @aya01flt)

The right-side splitter plate (link) on the CO’s aircraft carried a roll call of 10 ground crew members’ names again above a pair of “Spook” characters, in this case one painted red and the other blue playing with a missile, both with blue speech bubbles containing the words “Beat ’em”. At the bottom were three yellow-edged red stars denoting the 302nd’s victories at the 2004, 2006 and 2007 TAC Meets. On the left side (link), the stars were repeated in different colours beneath the flight crew ranks/names/TAC names, as usual showing a blatant disregard for English word spacing (Lt.Col. A.MATSUURA ‘PINE’ and 2ndLt. S.SUGIMOTO ‘BOB’).

Centrally positioned on the left-side splitter plate of the CO’s aircraft was the 302nd’s colourful
if slightly gruesome official badge for the 2007 event, depicting an eagle’s head carrying a
skull being pierced by a missile, which was used for a uniform patch. A low-viz version
was carried in the same position on ’428.
(Image from seller on Aucfree website [link])

The non-dictionary word 爆闘 (bakutō [link]) at the base of the rudder literally means ‘explosive fight’, This motto has appeared regularly on 302nd aircraft that have taken part in the TAC Meet since 1994. Obscurely, the term comes from the name of a team in the bō-taoshi (literally ‘pole-toppling’) sporting event traditionally held at the National Defense Academy. One of the 302nd’s then maintenance crew chiefs had apparently been the bō-taoshi team leader during his time at the academy.

(Photo: aya01@長野県特地派遣隊 via Twitter @aya01flt)

Another aircraft present that day, the comparatively dowdy 07-8435 (link), had likely been used as a spare at the TAC Meet and thus only sported the toned-down nose and tail markings.

YouTube footage shows Phantoms taxying out (link) and in flight  (link) on the day of the air show.

(One of the two Phantoms chosen to be the last given a special marking by the 302nd TFS, ’428 was the aircraft given a predominantly white colour scheme in 2018. See earlier photo.)

302nd TFS Okinawa Phantom Final Year 2008

(Photo: Lusty11 via Twitter @lusty_11)

Ahead of trading places with the F-15Js of 204th Sqn in 2009, the 302nd gave F-4EJKai 37-8322 a special, green-based colour scheme for the unit’s last air show as a Naha resident.

Again, this shark-mouthed aircraft carried the 302nd’s bakutō motto, described in the 2007 scheme above, only on this occasion in black aft of the left-side hinomaru. In this position on the right side in red was the 風林火山 (fūrinkazan) motto adopted for the squadron banner that dates back to 1975, the year after the unit was formed at Chitose and when the eagle unit marking made its debut. Proposed by first CO Akio Suzuki, the kanji are an abbreviated form of phrases from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The generally accepted translation is something like ‘as fast as the wind, as quiet as a forest, as daring as fire, and as immovable as a mountain’. The message 1985-2009 302TFS was carried on both sides of the fuselage in green.

(Above and below) Both engine intake splitter plates featured a “Spook” character on a surfboard
above the wording
Okinawa Phantom Final Year in red. Each underwing drop tank was
adorned with the words
Good Bye Okinawa.

(Photos via Twitter: [top] CJ @armingarea36; [above] Lusty11 @lusty_11)

302nd TFS 2013 TAC Meet Markings

(Photo: ゆりっぺ via Twitter @MisatoTachibana)

The above photo shows one of three shark-mouthed and specially marked Phantoms (link) that were the 302nd TFS representatives at the 2013 TAC Meet. Applied to the intake vane, the design adopted by the squadron that year (link) incorporated an armoured helmet worn by Shingen Takeda (1521–1573), the feudal warlord of Kai Province (roughly equivalent to modern-day Yamanashi Prefecture).

Also featured in the design and on the squadron patch for the event was the 風林火山 (fūrinkazan) motto described in the 2008 text above, words that had apparently also been adopted by Shingen Takeda.

302nd TFS 40th Anniversary Memorial, 2015

(Photo [posted Dec. 2019]: ハマー・猟 via Twitter @HammerRyou)

Quotes attributed to the previously mentioned Shingen Takeda are included on the plaque, dated March 7, 2015, at the base of the tailfin that commemorates the 302nd’s 40th anniversary. Roughly translated the quotes state: ‘Men are a castle, men are a stone wall’ and ‘A merciful act brings a man to your side, a vengeful act makes him your enemy.’

The plaque also bears the names of the two crew members—1st Lt. Yoshiyuki Watanabe and Capt. Katsuhiko Yamamoto—who lost their lives on active duty on November 17, 1976, and November 30, 1991, respectively, above a listing of the then 24 COs. (The 302nd was to have a total of 26 COs during its Phantom era.)

Presumably, this important possession will have accompanied the squadron on its move to Misawa.

Gone But Far from Forgotten


In late May 2019, the appearance of a valedictory mook (magazine book) from Kōkū Fan publisher Bunrindo marked the disappearance from the skies of 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron Phantoms. A review can be found in the Japanese Language/Post-1945 and Current Topics section on the Magazines/Books page.

69-8701crsThe first JASDF F-35A during pilot training at Luke AB, Arizona, in mid-March 2018. The above-
mentioned Bunrindo mook also features a chapter covering the Provisional F-35A Squadron from 
its formation at Misawa on December 1, 2017, to the day the unit assumed the mantle of the
formerly Phantom-equipped 302nd TFS, on March 26, 2019.
(Photo: Tom McGhee

303rd TFS Formed  (As 303rd Sqn) Oct. 26, 1976
                          (6th Air Wing, Komatsu, F-4EJKai)
Current Base  Komatsu (6th Air Wing, F-15J/DJ and T-4)

The scene at Komatsu on October 26, 1976, the day a ceremony was held to
mark the much delayed formation of the 303rd TFS.
(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

The 303rd was intended to replace the F-86F Sabre-equipped 4th Sqn, which had disbanded at Komatsu on June 30, 1975. As a result of protracted discussions with the local authorities and residents about the deployment of Phantoms, it was to be a year and four months before the 303rd would form.

303Sqn F-4EJ(Photo: JASDF)

Commenced on June 17, 1977, QRA operations formed an essential part of the unit’s operations at a time when so-called Tokyo Express flights—morning incursions across the Sea of Japan made by Soviet Air Force Tupolev Tu-95 Bear and Myasischev M-4 Bison bombers—were at their peak.

The unit made its debut, alongside representatives from three other Phantom squadrons, at the 1978 TAC Meet and won the competition for the first time in 1981.

The 303rd officially became the first former Phantom unit to complete conversion to the F-15J on December 1, 1987, having ceased operations on the outgoing type the previous day.

303rd TFSA 303rd TFS ground crew performs maintenance on the ramp at Eielson AFB during
Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 11-2, which was held in July 2011.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Miguel Lara via Wikimedia Commons)

303rd Sqn F-15JA 303rd TFS F-15J on finals to its Komatsu home base in October 2014. (Photo: Andy Binks)

It was to be 2000 before the unit, a multiple TAC Meet winner, made its debut at the Cope North Guam exercise. Although the 303rd received examples of modernized F-15Js in 2007, the unit is said to be currently equipped solely with standard examples.

303rd Sqn/TFS Tail Markings
(Early F-4EJ) Initially (from 1978), the 303rd carried on the 205th Sqn’s tradition of wearing the 6th Air Wing’s red, white and blue marking, as shown in the black and white photo above.

303rd sqn JASDF marking

(Later F-4EJ and F-15J/DJ) Adopted in June 1981 to reflect the 303rd’s “Dragon” radio call-sign, the current design (above) depicts the dragon god said to be the guardian of sacred Mt. Hakusan, close to Komatsu AB. The disc containing the design is in the form of a stylized “6” to again denote the air wing to which the squadron is assigned.

303rd TFS Special Markings

Komatsu Air Show 2009 F-15J  72-8881 (link) (link) (link)

Exercise Bushido Garden, September 2023

(Photo: K. otani via X [formerly Twitter] @kotaken9022)

(See Bulletin Board story Aug.-Sept. 2023)

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via X [formerly Twitter] @JasdfKomatsu) 

304th Sqn Formed  Aug. 1, 1977 (8th Air Wing, Tsuiki, F-4EJ)
Current Base  Naha (9th Air Wing, F-15J/DJ and T-4)

At the time of its formation, the 304th Sqn called on the services of experienced former F-86F Sabre pilots from the 10th Sqn, which had disbanded at Tsuiki the previous April. Allowing time for the pilots to adjust to two-man crew operations, the 304th Sqn was able to commence QRA duties on April 10, 1978.

Despite having formed a matter of a mere nine months beforehand, the 304th’s veteran pilots were instrumental in the unit beating off the challenge from the other three Phantom units to emerge victorious at the first-ever TAC Meet in 1978.

A low-angle view of a 304th Sqn T-33A on the ramp at Tsuiki in July 1979 (Photo: Takao Kadokami)

F-4EJ 304Sqn 1983Its canopies open in the time-honoured fashion, a 304th Sqn F-4EJ moves along the taxiway at
Tsuiki in August 1983. This aircraft retains the light- and dark-blue colour scheme applied for
the previous year’s TAC Meet at Komatsu.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

After that initial success, operational reasons connected to Tsuiki’s location and the need to maintain a high degree of QRA readiness forced the squadron to miss the TAC Meet for a number of years. After a nine-year hiatus, the 304th won again, with a record-high point score, at its next participation in 1987.

The unit received its first F-15Js in April 1989 and was in the position to be officially declared fully converted on to the type on January 11, 1990.

304 Sqn F-15J(Photo: JASDF Tsuiki AB)

A 304th Sqn T-33A taxying at Tsuiki in July 1989, soon after the unit had received its first F-15Js.
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

The onus of serving as the Western Air Defense Force’s sole interceptor unit fell on the 304th following the disbandment of the Eagle-equipped 202nd Sqn at Nyutabaru in October 2000.

DSCF6926(Above and below) The JASDF’s 50th anniversary in 2004 and diamond jubilee in 2014 prompted
the 304th TFS to paint aircraft in distinctive blue colour schemes.

(Photos [both at Tsuiki, Nov. 2004 and Nov. 2014, respectively]: Takao Kadokami)

The 304th relocated to Naha, Okinawa, to form part of the newly formed 9th Air Wing in January 2016, bringing to an end its 38-year partnership with the 6th TFS at Tsuiki and with the 5th Air Wing’s 301st TFS at Nyutabaru.

To mark its 40th anniversary in the time-honoured fashion, the unit painted an F-15J (and a T-4) in special markings ahead of the two-day Naha air show in December 2017 (see December 2017 link).

304th Sqn JASDF 40th annivMembers of the 304th Sqn turn out to mark the unit’s 40th anniversary in a tried and
tested fashion in a hangar at Naha on January 27, 2018.
(Photo: JASDF Naha AB)

304th Sqn Tail Marking

304 Sqn JASDF Tengu  (F-15J)The 304th’s Tengu tail marking, as seen on an F-15J  at Iwakuni, September 2012

(F-4EJ and F-15J/DJ) Continuing the links between F-4EJ unit markings and real or imaginary inhabitants of nearby mountains, the 304th chose a mask of Tengu, a long-nosed goblin said to inhabit Mt. Ehiko. Famed for its swordsmanship and believed to possess phantom-like supernatural powers, the Tengu is said to have been the idea of the 8th Air Wing commander at the time of the unit’s formation.

304th Sqn Special Markings (November 1992) 
Tsuiki AB 50th Anniversary

F-15J 72-8888

(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 8, 1992]: Takao Kadokami)

(Photos above and below [Tsuiki, Nov. 8, 1992]: Takao Kadokami)
For other photos from that day, see the Tsuiki base history page.

For photos of the training aircraft specially marked for Tsuiki’s 50th anniversary in 1992, see the JASDF Base Histories page.

304th Sqn 1992 TAC Meet Markings

A resident 304th Sqn F-15DJ photographed on the day of Tsuiki’s 50th anniversary in
November 1992. This aircraft still bears the cartoon crow and ‘Super Tengu’  markings  
applied to the noses of the unit’s representatives at that year’s TAC Meet; the crow
on the four F-15Js was painted black, as shown below.

(Photos: Takao Kadokami)

Also participating on the day of Tsuiki’s 50th anniversary in November 1992 was the then CO of the
304th, Lt. Col. Yoshiharu Nishigaki, flying his TAC Meet mount. Alongside the Super Tengu marking, 
the crow painted on the nose of his aircraft had the two gold stars of Nishigaki’s rank added to
its wings. For other photos from the anniversary event, see the Tsuiki entry on the
JASDF base history page.
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)

2010 Komatsu Air Show F-15J 72-8961 (link) (link)

304th Sqn Special Marking (2017)

304th F-15J special marking (15)(Photo: JASDF Naha AB)

Also featured on a Bulletin Board page entry in December 2017 (link), the F-15J selected to receive the special marking treatment to celebrate the 304th’s 40th anniversary naturally appeared on the Naha AB website.

Interestingly and unusually, a sequence of photos showed snapshots of the process required to apply the upper surface diagonal design.

304th F-15J (14)

(Above) An outline of the upper surface design was mapped out free hand in a hangar.
The aircraft was then towed out into the open air for masking tape to be applied.

(Below) The completed masterpiece (Both photos: JASDF Naha AB)

304th F-15J (2)

Whereas the outer surfaces on the right tailfin carried an enlarged tengu marking, cunningly applied with the aid of back projection (see photo in Bulletin Board report), those on the left were adorned with a circular design modelled on the squadron patch insignia.

304th F-15J (12)
304th F-15J (3)(Both photos: JASDF Naha AB)

Along the right-side engine intake, beneath the wing, the words Tengu Warriors 40th Anniversary were written in red and repeated in blue along the left side.

The space provided by the drop tanks was also put to good use. The right drop tank carried the kanji 琉球天狗 (Ryukyu Tengu), Ryukyu being the name of the former kingdom that is now Okinawa, in red with a white scroll. Again in blue, the outside of the left drop tank bore silhouettes of the three types operated by the 304th and its predecessor in the Tsuiki days, the 10th Sqn, along with a roll call of the commanding officers. The name of the pilot, the 304th’s current commanding officer Lt. Col. Takeshi Okubo, was applied to the nose.

The black silhouette of an eagle was positioned ahead of the left horizontal tailplane, and the names of the paint team superimposed in white.

Fine close-up photos of these and other details can be found in the February 2018 issue of Koku Fan.

Despite 2022 being the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s return to Japanese sovereignty and thus of Naha becoming a JASDF base, there were surprisingly no specially painted F-15Js at that year’s air show. The golden jubilee was only marked by a makeshift banner held by a pilot and a crewman dressed as a tengu in front of the 304th TFS aircraft on static display and some stickers.

Seen at Tsuiki on a wet day in November 1993, this specially painted 304th Sqn T-33A looks even
better in colour
(link). (Photo: Takao Kadokami)

305th TFS Formed  (As 305th Sqn) Dec. 1, 1978
                           (7th Air Wing, Hyakuri, F-4EJ)
Current Base  Nyutabaru (5th Air Wing, F-15J/DJ and T-4)

The second F-4EJ unit to form at Hyakuri, the 305th’s first intake of pilots was drawn from those who had previously flown the F-104J with the 206th Sqn, which had officially disbanded at the same base the previous day. Flight training and duties were conducted in partnership with its conversion unit sister squadron there, the 301st.

305 Sqn F-4EJ 1981A lineup of 305th Sqn F-4EJs, with interlopers from the then base-sharing 301st Sqn to
the right, seen at Hyakuri in October 1981.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Although the 305th was able to make its TAC Meet debut in 1979, this was the time when the 301st, the Phantom “Mother Squadron,” reigned supreme at the event. It was not until 1986, the year after the 301st had moved to Nyutabaru, that the 305th was able to record the first of a string of TAC Meet successes.

IMG0013crsTaxying out at Hyakuri, October 2000

After 14 years’ service on the F-4EJ, the 305th began to receive its first F-15Js early in 1993 and was declared fully operational on the type on August 2 that year.

This schedule had given the unit plenty of time to recover from any disruption caused by the type conversion, as evidenced by the 305th taking home the victor’s spoils at the following year’s TAC Meet. Detachments from the 305th, too, have gained experience at the joint U.S.-Japan Cope North Guam military exercise, the first occasion having been in 1999.

305 Sqn F-15JA 305th TFS F-15J touches down at Hyakuri during Exercise Keen Sword ’05 in November 2004.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Val Gempis via Wikimedia Commons)

In 2009, the 305th’s Hyakuri partnership with sister squadron the 204th had to be brought to an end after 16 years. In response to the changing security situation in the seas around Japan, the decision was taken to bolster the capabilities of the Okinawa-based Southwestern Composite Air Division. Begun on January 8, 2009, the resulting transfer of the 204th’s operations from Hyakuri to Naha was completed on January 19. The Phantom-equipped 302nd TFS vacated Naha and headed in the opposite direction to join the 304th at Hyakuri.

The 305th TFS itself completed its relocation from under the command of the 7th Air Wing at Hyakuri to under the 5th Air Wing at Nyutabaru on August 31, 2016.

305 Sqn JASDF NyutabaruThe 305th marked the completion of its move from Hyakuri to Nyutabaru on August 31, 2016.
Two months later, on October 31, the Phantom-equipped 301st Sqn headed in the opposite direction.
(Photo: JASDF Nyutabaru AB)

(Photo [Dec. 2022]: JASDF Public Affairs Office via Twitter @JASDF_PAO)

The above photo shows JASDF personnel and their Philippine AF hosts at Clark AB in front of the pair of 305th TFS F-15Js that was sent on the first deployment of JASDF combat aircraft to the Philippines, as featured in a December 2022 Bulletin Board story. Squadron CO Lt. Col. Lt. Col. Shōtarō Arisawa is on the right of those seated on the front row.

305th Sqn/TFS Tail Marking

305 Sqn JASDFThe 305th Sqn plum flower emblem on the tail of an F-4EJ (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

(F-4EJ, F-15J/DJ and T-33A, T-4) The plum flower emblem of the 305th continues the tradition started by the F-104J-equipped 206th Sqn (see entry above).

(Photo [Tsuiki, November 1980]: Takao Kadokami)

305th Sqn Phantom Special Markings

The two FIGHTING 305 representatives at rest on the end of an impressive Komatsu flight line
during the November 1989 TAC Meet. Note the blue lightning flashes on the rudders, a
throwback to the 7th Air Wing’s F-86F Sabre era and the 305th’s direct lineage from
the 9th
(Sabre) and 206th (Starfighter) squadrons. (Photo: Akio Misawa)

(Above and below, 1989 TAC Meet) Close-ups of the nose of ’383 offer good views of the ace of 
spades within a gunsight pierced by an arrow marking carried on both engine intake splitter
plates. These photos also reveal
(right side) a list of ground crew members worthy of
(left side) pilots’ and maintenance crew names
with a red “Cat’s eye” marking forward of the serial number.

(Photos: Akio Misawa)

Led by 17-8438, named TARZAN TANK for the occasion, a procession of F-4EJs gets under way
as 305th personnel clear the flight line at the July 1992 TAC Meet held at Komatsu. Wearing a
variation on the blue colour scheme, 67-8383
COBRA TENKOH (below) shared the blue
drawing of the 17th century swordsman and philosopher
(as well as, more recently,
manga character) Musashi Miyamoto straddling the kanji 武蔵 (Musashi) on
the port-side engine intake splitter plate.

(Photos: Akio Misawa)

Close-up of the cockpit area of 47-8339 IWAN HIRO. At the July 1992 TAC Meet, all the unit’s
participating aircraft carried a
FIGHTING 305 marking above their names on the starboard-
side splitter plate only. Although the crew chief’s name
K.HIGASHI appeared in white in
this case, others
(such as 438’s K.SHINADA) were in black. (Photo: Akio Misawa)

In 1993, its 15th anniversary, the 305th bade a fond farewell to the Phantom and marked the
double occasion with a suitably doctored aircraft.
(Photo: BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30)

305th TFS Eagle Special Markings

The F-15DJ 32-8083 (seen here with F-15J 02-8922) participated at the 1998 TAC Meet at
Chitose AB. Note the nose markings and large badges on the sides of the engine intakes.
(Photo: フジコン via Twitter @shyuyuri1212)

As seen in the above photo, three tails show the eagle marking in the form of a 7, denoting the
7th Air Wing, that was adopted for the 1998 TAC Meet. Each of these aircraft carries a kanji
from the squadron motto on a different-coloured background at the top of its tailfin.

(Photo: WING ACE via Twitter @on_top_mark)

Attending the 2001 TAC Meet at Komatsu, F-15J 32-8941 carries the kanji for Musashi on its nose
and a variation of the sword tail marking
(link) that had been adopted for the 2000 TAC Meet at
Chitose and Misawa.
(Photo: フジコン via Twitter @shyuyuri1212)

(Above and below) The 305th’s design for the JASDF 50th anniversary in 2004. The striking,
predominantly white nose, wings and tail were used as a background for images of plum
blossoms said to evoke Kairakuen, famous landscape gardens in the city of Mito,
Ibaraki Prefecture. The upper surfaces
(link) also portrayed Mt. Tsukuba in
Ibaraki Prefecture and a distant Mt. Fuji.

(Photos: [Top] aya01@長野県特地派遣隊 via Twitter @aya01flt;
[above] のり via Twitter @norinori_1977)

(Above and below) F-15J 92-8911 was used to celebrate 20 years of Eagle operations in 2012.
The white area on the tail was a stylized 7 denoting the 7th Air Wing, and the downsized plum
blossom unit marking showed the location of Hyakuri on a likewise stylized map of Japan.
(Photos: [Top] NOCAR via Twitter @CharlieYankee22,
[above] BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30)

More details of the comparatively subdued markings applied to the three 305th aircraft that took
part in the September 2013 TAC Meet can be found below and on a video shot at Hyakuri
(Photo: aya01@長野県特地派遣隊 via Twitter @aya01flt)

(Photo [Sept. 2013]: Raptor01s via Twitter @raptor01s)

The above close-up is of the nose art of one of the 305th aircraft, actually the fifth-built F-15J 22-8805, at the 2013 TAC Meet. For most of September that year, three aircraft carried this black lion’s head with the kanji for strength from the 305th’s motto. The latter was superimposed in blue characters above the saying attributed to Musashi Miyamoto (see December 2022 Bulletin Board story), who appears in silhouette form to the right of the crew chief’s name (in this case Senior Airman Hiroshi [or Hiroyuki] Nanba [or Naniwa]) above the last three of the serial number. Seen in the abovementioned YouTube video, these photos (link) (link) show the graffiti-like scrawls on the other side of this aircraft’s nose.

This F-15J was decked out in the 305th’s contribution to the JASDF’s 60th anniversary celebrations
from mid-August 2014 to early April 2015, when the aircraft was flown to Mitsubishi at Nagoya for
its regular inspect and repair as necessary
(IRAN) overhaul. Its upper surfaces were decorated in
an equally elaborate fashion
(link) (link). (Photo: ちぃすけ via Twitter @mononoke2020)

The left side of the nose gave the crew chief’s name as Fumihito(?) Inoue but otherwise was
bedecked in the same style as the right
(link). (Photo: meron via Twitter @129meron)

(Above and below) The pixelated scheme adopted for the 305th’s 40th anniversary in 2019.
kanji of the squadron motto were inconspicuously applied to the sides of the engine intakes.

Photos: [Top] JASDF Nyutabaru AB via Twitter @JASDF_nyutabaru;
[above] ひゅうが via Twitter @hyuga_mt_419)

305th TFS Special Markings (December 2022 / I)

For details of this colourful scheme see the December 2022 Bulletin Board story.
(Photos: [Top] AKIRESSOR via Twitter @AKIMONO82;
[above] マロだヨー via Twitter @Marodayooooo)

305th TFS Special Markings (December 2022 / II)

For details of the Paceho-22 scheme see the December 2022 Bulletin Board story.
(Photos: MOR1 via Twitter @anm10w3079)

305th TFS Special Markings
French Air and Space Force Visit, July 2023

Sent aloft to greet the three visiting French aircraft upon their arrival—see July 2023 Bulletin Board story—two 305th TFS aircraft (32-8821 and 52-8856) had their outer tail fins decorated with a simple but effective entwined French tricolour and Japanese flag. (At that time having only recently been delivered back to squadron service following manufacturer maintenance, 32-8821 had previously been assigned to the 303rd TFS at Komatsu.)

Added to the flag markings on the left side were the words Amitié entre le Japon et la France; the
right side can be seen here
(link). (Photo: Jウイング編集部via Twitter @ikarosjwings)

The aircraft being devoid of any other markings, the only other space used for decoration was that provided by the outer panels of the underwing tanks. These carried the kanji for Japan-France Joint Training 23 in black on a tricolour background. Although possibly a stylized Pegasus, the name of the joint training exercise, the design of the white silhouette has not yet been confirmed.

Beautifully shot and produced with ambient sound only (no muzak) in early 2022, a YouTube video (link) shows F-15J engine start procedures and the 305th Sqn’s departure.

306th Sqn Formed  (As 306th Sqn) June 30, 1981
                         (6th Air Wing, Komatsu, F-4EJ)
Current Base  Komatsu (6th Air Wing, F-15J/DJ and T-4)

Komatsu, June 30, 1981. The 306th forms on the day the 205th officially disbands.
(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter @JasdfKomatsu)

On June 30, 1981, the sixth and final original Phantom unit was essentially formed from the 205th Sqn, which had been disbanded on the same day. The 306th assumed responsibility for the interception of Soviet Air Force aircraft that were regularly entering Japanese airspace on April 6, 1982.

The level of airmanship possessed by the unit was soon ably demonstrated when the unit won its first annual TAC Meet competition at the first attempt later in 1982 and repeated the initial success on the next two occasions.

306 Sqn F-4EJ Komatsu 1986A lineup of six 306th Sqn F-4EJs on Komatsu air show day in July 1986. Not coincidentally,
aircraft ‘306’ nearest the camera was painted to commemorate the base’s 25th anniversary.
Using the whole aircraft for a representation of the unit’s golden eagle motif, in the TAC Meet
tradition, marked a tasteful, well-executed departure from the many gaudy, primary colour
schemes that had previously appeared.
(Photo: Akira Watanabe)

(Photo [Komatsu, August 1987]: Takao Kadokami)

Eight years after its formation, the 306th Sqn became the first to receive the F-4EJKai in November 1989 and had completed conversion by March the following year. The unit was thus heavily involved in the operational testing of the upgraded version’s ASM-1 missile.

The 306th began to receive its complement of F-15Js in August 1996. When the conversion process was declared complete, on March 17, 1997, the F-4EJKai aircraft and their experienced flight and maintenance crews were transferred to the re-formed 8th Sqn (q.v.) at Misawa.

306 Sqn F-15sA two-seat F-15DJ and an F-15J from the 306th TFS formate during air-to-air refuelling
training in July 2009. The 306th was the only squadron to convert from the
upgraded F-4EJ
Kai version of the Phantom to the F-15J.
(Photo [taken from a KC-135 tanker] : U.S. Air Force/Angelique Perez via Wikimedia Commons)

Having only guested at the 1997 event, the 306th made its official F-15J debut at the 1998 TAC Meet, where the unit emerged victorious, despite coming up against the Aggressor Squadron’s F-15DJs for the first time.

306th Sqn/TFS Tail Marking
(F-4EJ and F-15J/DJ)
Inhabiting the mountains close to Komatsu, the inuwashi (golden eagle) adopted by the 306th Sqn for its squadron marking in 1981 also happens to be prefectural bird of Ishikawa.

306 Sqn JASDF marking306th TFS tail marking, as seen on an F-15J at Komaki, February 2014

The shape of the eagle’s eye harks back to the stylized “6” tail marking carried on the F-104Js of the 306th’s predecessor at Komatsu, the 205th Sqn.

306th TFS F-15J Anniversary Markings through the Years

2001  306th 20th Anniversary 72-8962

This aircraft was first flown in its bona fide anniversary scheme on June 26 that year, only for the
air show to be cancelled following the 9.11 terrorist attacks on the United States five days before.

(Photos: 6th Air Wing, JASDF)

The main design elements were the body and head of an eagle extending toward the nose, and the grey silhouette of a Phantom on its upper surfaces. The GOLDEN EAGLES tail marking seemed to be a copy of that worn by 306th aircraft at that year’s TAC Meet, from which the two “kill” marking silhouettes on either side of the fuselage likely originated. The small disc marking on the left-side engine intake portrayed a cartoon eagle riding what is possibly a seagull; that on the right side could not be identified from available images.

2004  JASDF 50th Anniversary 52-8850

Its design mimicking the official JASDF half-century anniversary logo, the “Red Eagle” was one
of the many conspicuous colour schemes of that year. White stripes on the upper surfaces of its
(link) giving the impression of an eagle in flight, this aircraft was unusual in having
also had its radome painted.
(Photo [taken at Tsuiki]: T-fighter via Twitter @T_fighter)

2011  306th 30th Anniversary 92-8913

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB website photo gallery/小松航空クラブ)

This having been the year in which the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami had claimed lives and caused widespread devastation in the Tohoku region, this aircraft sported the then in vogue “Hang in There Japan” slogan along its fuselage sides (link).

Aside from the eagle nose marking (link), a more distinctive feature was the “Spook” character on its air brake (link), a doff of the cap to the squadron’s long association with the Phantom.

2014  JASDF 60th Anniversary 72-8960

On this occasion, the unit’s signature eagle nose marking incorporated
Japan Air Self Defense Force (without the hyphen) in cursive script.

(Photos: [Top] Raptor01s via Twitter @raptor01s; [above] BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30)

The aircraft carried slogans, again on black on yellow background, along the leading edges of its
wings. These were in English—
JASDF 60th Anniversary and Blue Sky Leads to Tomorrow
on the upper port and starboard wing, respectively
and in Japanese on
the corresponding undersurfaces.

(Photo: i北陸 [i-Hokuriku] / Hokuriku region official event and tourist destination blog [link])

2016  306th 35th Anniversary 62-8866

Usually, squadron’s will mark their anniversaries with each passing decade, but the 306th broke
with that tradition with this comparatively simple design.

(Photos: [Top] タッチ via Twitter @303fighting; [above] BANCHOUさん via Twitter @BANF30)

2021  306th 40th Anniversary 22-8940

The paint team went overboard with the black-edged yellow flames for this design but
left the undersides untouched.

(Photos: [Top] ぬまけん via Twitter @nmkn20021121;
[above] yuki@TONK2次被害者会入会 via Twitter @VznYuki)

Usually obscured by the drop tank, the large black panel on the starboard side carried the names
of the six-man painting team. Each had red-, blue- or yellow-coloured brush strokes and 
brushes showing his areas of responsibility. The white disc badge on the left-side
engine intake
(link) showed an eagle’s head and wings, below the number 40
contained within a lightning flash and above
(Photo: nc 39 306 J50 np via Twitter @306Z33)

At times, the aircraft carried a port drop tank featuring the black silhouettes, with yellow jet
efflux, of the five JASDF jet aircraft types operated by the 306th and their service dates:

T-4 1992 – NOW    F-4EJKai 1989 -1997    F-4EJ 1981-1989
F-15J 1997- NOW          (with改kai)           T-33A 1981-1994
The starboard drop tank just had five silhouettes (link). 
(Photo: yabyan via Twitter @yabyukiyab)

Italian Air Force Centenary Scheme, August 2023

On the occasion of a debut training visit by Italian Air Force F-35As, the opportunity was taken to produce a scheme to celebrate the centenary of the postwar Aeronautica Militare’s founding as the independent Regia Aeronautica in March 1923.

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter [X] @JasdfKomatsu)

The most attention was given to the Italian port side of the aircraft (see Bulletin Board story for August 2023), which carried the centenary logo (above) on the tail. The port underwing tank featured the words CENTO ANNI DELL`AERONAUTICA MILITARE above the slogan In volo verso il future (Flying to the future).

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter [X] @JasdfKomatsu)

The starboard side (above) was Japanese, the tail retaining the 306th’s standard eagle’s head marking. The starboard underwing tank carried the simple message Welcome to KOMATSU Airbase.

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter [X] @JasdfKomatsu)

Beginning with the green beneath the canopy, the colours of the Italian flag extended along from the side of the rear of the canopy on the left side, the white and then red of the Japanese flag on the right. The head-on photo above shows how the outer stripes skirted around the above-wing hinomaru but reconverged on the upper surfaces of the horizontal stabilizers. The undersides of the aircraft were left untouched.

(Photo: JASDF Komatsu AB via Twitter [X] @JasdfKomatsu)

F-35A Sqn
Formed  Feb. 24, 2018 (3rd Air Wing, Misawa, F-35A/T-4)
Reformed  March 26, 2019 (as 302nd TFS)

Also known as the F-35A Special Fighter Squadron, this interim unit was formed prior to the official reforming of the 302nd TFS on the F-35A. The unit started to work up on the fourth Mitsubishi-produced F-35A on February 7, 2018, with one of the two Northern Air Command Support Flight T-4s in attendance as chase aircraft for its training flights. 

The unit’s own T-4 was noted sporting a dark grey raijin (god of thunder) tail marking. This photo (link) shows the aircraft on February 25, 2018, when the 3rd Air Wing held an event to mark 60 years of active service, 40 of which had been spent at Misawa. 

501st Sqn Formed  Dec. 1, 1961 (Matsushima, RF-86F)
 (Hyakuri Detachment, RF-4E)
 Oct. 1, 1974
Disbanded  (As 501st Tactical Reconnaissance Sqn,
 Tactical Reconnaissance Group) March 26, 2020

Having formed within the Air Reconnaissance Group with 10 RF-86Fs, the 18th and last RF-86F was delivered to the 501st on March 27, 1962.

At the time of its move from Matsushima to Iruma on August 31, 1962, the unit also had two T-33As and a T-28B. (A short history of the T-28B, which is now on display at the JASDF Air Park, appears on the JASDF Where Are They Now? page of this website.)

RF-86F 501Sqn JASDF IrumaA ground crew member waits patiently at the wingtip, while a colleague talks to the pilot of a
501st Sqn RF-86F. As the RF-86F’s armament was removed to accommodate the cameras
for its reconnaissance role, fake gun ports were painted on the nose. Of note in the right
background of this shot, taken at Iruma in May 1975, is an RF-86F with its fuselage
number and
hinomaru national insignia removed. (Photo: Akira Watanabe)

Following the introduction of the RF-4E, on October 1, 1974, a detachment was relocated to Hyakuri, to which the Tactical Reconnaissance Group was moved a year to the day later to assume official command of a fully equipped 501st.

501st Sqn RF-4EJOne of the original 14 RF-4E Phantoms received by the 501st Sqn and subsequently upgraded to
Kai standard, seen at Hyakuri in October 2000. The 501st flew a mix of
Kai and RF-4EJKai aircraft as well as Kawasaki T-4s.

A detachment of RF-86Fs was operated from Iruma until March 25, 1977, after which some aircraft were passed to the Kōkū Sōtai Shireibu Hikōtai (HQ Squadron).

The unit’s 14 original RF-4Es were joined by the first of an eventual seven RF-4EJ and eight RF-4EJKai, all converted from standard F-4EJs, in 1992.

August 2, 1993. A ceremony is held at Hyakuri to mark the entry into squadron service of the
first RF-4EJ
(87-6406, left). The former F-4EJ 87-8406 had made its first post-conversion 
flight on February 4, 1992, and been cleared for operational service on January 29, 1993.

(Photo: JASDF Hyakuri via Twitter @jasdf_hyakuri)

RF-4EJ SchleiffertOne of the eight modified to RF-4EJKai standard, that first RF-4EJ had initially appeared in an
experimental blue camouflage scheme.
(Photo [1994]: Rob Schleiffert via Wikimedia Commons)

The 501st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron conducted its final flight training mission on March 9,
2020, in preparation for its disbandment 17 days later. An official disbandment ceremony, which
had been planned for March 14, had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(Photos [Mar. 9, 2020]: JASDF Hyakuri AB)

On February 4, 2020, just over a month prior to the completion of its last day of flight training, the 501st passed through the 80,000 accident-free flying hours milestone. The last incident had occurred more than 25 years before, in the early hours of October 5, 1994. Pilot Major Hideharu Sakai and navigator 1st Lt Masaharu Miura lost their lives on active service when their RF-4EKai crashed into forested high ground near the coastal town of Oshamambe, Hokkaido Prefecture. They had been on a reconnaissance mission launched to assess the damage following the previous night’s major Kuril Islands (Hokkaido Toho-oki) Earthquake.

The only other fatal accident involving a Phantom crew had happened on March 2, 1992. Pilot Capt. Masahiko Shiota and navigator Capt. Hisao Yamamoto were the crew of an RF-4E that came down in a paddy field near the village of Hirata, Fukushima Prefecture, 10 minutes after having taken off on a training mission.

A a short photo retrospective on the 501st Sqn is included in the March 29, 2020, entry on the Bulletin Board page of this website.

For some great valedictory action footage to a classical music accompaniment, look no further than that offered by the highly recommended 1-300 YouTube channel (link).

501st Sqn Tail Markings
Blue and yellow chevrons, said to represent the viewing of the blue universe through a yellow lens.

(RF-4E/EJ) On Feb. 25, 1981, the chevron design, carried over from the RF-86F era, was officially replaced by the head of the U.S. cartoon character, Woody Woodpecker. Derived from the squadron’s emblem since 1961 (shown below), which depicts a bowtie-wearing Woody wielding a telescope and a map, the change had been prompted by the adoption of a woodland camouflage scheme.

It was apparently the 16th century strategist and army general Kansuke Yamamoto’s so-called kitsutsuki senpō (woodpecker strategy) of chipping away at enemy positions—successfully adopted by the forces under Shingen Takeda in the campaign against Kenshin Uesugi in 1561—that had resulted in the woodpecker’s adoption by the 501st.

From around 1998, yellow, white and blue bow ties denoted to which maintenance crew an aircraft was assigned.

501 Sqn JASDF patch

501st Sqn Special Markings (1998)

(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 1998]: Takao Kadokami)

1998 Designs by Three Manga Artists  RF-4Es 47-6903, 57-6912, 57-6913

For the 1998 airshow season, works featuring kunoichi (female ninja) from manga artists were selected as nose art on the left-hand side of three of the RF-4Es. That shown, on ’912, was the green boot and suited, red-haired design by Yoshihisa Tagami. Colour photos of all three designs can be found in the June 2020 issue of Kōkū Fan magazine.

501st Sqn Special Markings (2004)

RF-4EJKai Hyakuri 2004

Taken from a photograph kindly supplied by Andy Binks, this close-up of a 501st Sqn RF-4EJKai shows the kanji character 信, pronounced shin, painted in white on its intake splitter plate. Carrying the general meanings of trust, faith and sincerity, this kanji character marking is one of several that can be seen on aircraft that participate in the JASDF inter-squadron TAC Meet and on other occasions. 

Japanese sources state that these are derived, with some subtle differences, from the (familiar to some Japanese) Nansō Satomi Hakkenden (translated in Encylopaedia Britannica as Satomi and the Eight Dogs), written over the period from 1813 to 1842 by one Kyokutei Bakin (real name Takizawa Bakin, 1767–1848). One of the world’s longest stories, the saga tells of attempts to restore the fortunes of a samurai household and revolves around eight unborn puppies, eight mystic beads (each one bearing the kanji carrying the meaning of a Confucian ideal) and eight sons who grow up to become the embodiments of those ideals. 

Other 501st Sqn Phantoms were each similarly adorned with a kanji character, including (with general meanings):

filial piety superiority
rei courtesy jin benevolence
chū loyalty gi honour
courage retsu intensity

DSCF6927crs(Photo [Tsuiki, Nov. 2004]: Takao Kadokami)

Also present at Hyakuri in 2004 was an RF-4EKai (above) specially painted in a predominantly metallic blue colour scheme to commemorate the JASDF’s Golden Jubilee. This aircraft’s intake splitter plates bore an elaborate version of the kanji 忍 (the nin of ninja, meaning spy or to enter surreptitiously) with a superimposed sword. The underside artwork featured a version of the cartoon character known as The Spook, originally designed by a McDonnell-Douglas technical artist, and the motto 見敵必撮 (miteki hissatsu, ‘enemy sighted, photograph guaranteed’). These elements were painted in silver along the modified F-104J fuel tank then serving as a centreline general-purpose pod.

The first of the then RF-4Es to enter Japanese service in 1974, ’901 had thus already been in service for 30 of the 50 years of the JASDF’s existence. Admittedly an elaborate colour scheme, lack of attention to detail when it came to the English, which is generally not a Japanese strong point, had resulted in the use of the British spelling ‘Defence’, rather than ‘Defense’, in the service’s official name on the fuselage. 

501st Sqn Special Marking (2019)

httpstwitter.comeringi_0806Taking a leaf (or roll) from the Greek Air Force 348th TRS’s 2017 “End of the Film” design (link),
the 501st Sqn applied strips of film incorporating the years 1961 and 2020 to the rear fuselage  
and nose of one of its aircraft in April 2019. Note that the faint outline of the former
chevron tail marking was also added to the tail.
(Photo: eringi via Twitter [link])

f-15j saluteAs is customary, the crew chief of a 204th Sqn F-15J salutes as his charge moves off the flight line.

Glossary of Principal Terms

Air Wing Kōkūdan 航空団
Central Air Defense Force Chūbu Kōkūhōmentai 中部航空方面隊
(Tactical) Fighter Squadron* Hikōtai 飛行隊
Northern Air Defense Force Hokubu Kōkūhōmentai 北部航空方面隊
Southwestern Air Defense Force
(from July 1, 2017)
Nansei Kōkūhōmentai 南西航空方面隊
Southwestern Composite Air Division
 (Oct. 16, 1973 to June 30, 2017)
Nansei Kōkūkonseidan 南西航空混成団
Tactical Reconnaissance Group** Teisatsukōkūtai 偵察航空隊
Western Air Defense Force Seibu Kōkūhōmentai 西部航空方面隊
*  Standard hikōtai designation also used for 501st Tactical Reconnaissance Sqn (and
     23rd Fighter Training Sqn)
**  Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron
 used only in English references to 501st Sqn.

13th FTW T-4A fine study of a Kawasaki T-4 from the 13th Flying Training Wing at Ashiya, Fukuoka Prefecture.
Specially painted to mark the type’s 15-year association with the unit for the Ashiya air show in
November 2015, the year on the fuselage inscription was changed from 2015 to 2016 for the
aircraft’s appearances at two displays in December.
(Photo source: JASDF Ashiya AB)

Please note that the current total of five pages devoted to JASDF
squadron histories
are constantly being updated and improved. 

 (All photographs on this website are copyright J-HangarSpace
unless otherwise stated.) 

Principal Reference Sources (in Japanese unless otherwise stated)


F-4 Phantom II Export Version, Famous Airplanes of the World No. 82, Bunrindo, 2000

JASDF F-15 All-Unit Guide, JWings, October 2014 issue

Kōkū Jieitai F-4, Military Aircraft of JASDF, Ikaros, 2009

Kōkū Jieitai F-4 Phantom II, Model Art Profile (supplement to April 2008 issue) 

Kōkū Jieitai F-86/F-104, Military Aircraft of JASDF, Ikaros, 2005

Lockheed F-104J/DJ Starfighter “Eiko, Famous Airplanes of the World No. 104, Bunrindo, 2004

North American F-86 Sabre, Famous Airplanes of the World Nos. 20 and 93, Bunrindo, 1995/2002

Watanabe, Akira, Japanese Air Arms, 19521984, (self-published in English), 1984





Air Shows in 2024
Jan. 20  Iruma
Mar. 3  Komaki
Mar. 24  Kumagaya
May 19  Shizuhama
May 26  Miho
June 2  Hofu-Kita
Aug. 25 Matsushima
Sept. 8  Misawa
Sept. 15  Chitose
Sept. 23  Komatsu
Oct. 6  Ashiya
Oct. 27  Hamamatsu
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. 17  Gifu
Nov. 24  Tsuiki
Dec. 1  Nyutabaru
Dec. 8  Hyakuri
Dec.*  Naha
* To be confirmed

Air Shows in 2023
Mar. 5  Komaki
Apr. 2  Kumagaya

May 28  Miho
May 28  Shizuhama
June 3  Nara
               (Open Day)
June 4  Hofu
July 30  Chitose
Aug. 27  Matsushima
Sept. 10  Misawa
Sept. 24  Akita
Oct. 7  Komatsu
Oct. 15  Ashiya
Oct. 29  Hamamatsu
Nov. 12  Gifu
Nov. 26  Tsuiki
Dec. 3  Nyutabaru
Dec. 10  Naha
Dec. 17  Hyakuri

Air Shows in 2024
Jan. 7  Narashino
 (paratroop display)
Apr. 6  Kasuminome
Apr. 6  Utsunomiya
Apr. 13  Somagahara
May 19  Takayubaru

June 1
June 30  Okadama
Oct.*  Tachikawa
Nov. 10  Akeno
* To be confirmed 

Air Shows in 2023

Apr. 8 Somagahara
May 27  Kita-
June 3  Kasumigaura
June 11  Obihiro
July 2  Okadama

Aug. 5  Kasuminome
Oct. 1   Kisarazu
Oct. 29  Tachikawa

Nov. 4  Akeno

Air Shows in 2024
Apr. 20  Atsugi
  (US Navy/JMSDF)
Apr. 28  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(Joint Friendship Day)
July 21  Tateyama
July 28  Hachinohe
* To be confirmed 

Air Shows in 2023
Apr. 15  Iwakuni
(Joint Friendship Day)
Apr. 22  Atsugi

Apr. 30  Kanoya
May 28 Omura
July 23  Tateyama
Sept. 2  Maizuru
Sept. 17  Hachinohe
Oct. 1  Ozuki
Oct. 21  Shimofusa
Nov. 18  Tokushima


JASDF 2022









JASDF 2019

Komaki 2019 poster



JGSDF 2022


Narashino 2019
 (paratroop display)


JMSDF 2022







Ozuki 2019



(Please note that air show dates are subject to change/cancellation.)


Asian Air Arms

The Aviation Historian

Nabe3’s Aviation Pages


Japan Association of Aviation Photo-

(Site dedicated to displayed aircraft in Asia)


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